March 25, 20111130Views

Friday, March 25th – The Department of Disaster Management held a simulation exercise in the territory this week to aid in their continued planning for disaster preparedness.

The exercise took place on Wednesday, March 23.  Schools which included private and public primary and secondary institutions, the Eselyn Henley-Richez Learning Centre along with several government offices and a few private sector organisations participated in the National Earthquake and Tsunami Full Scale Simulation Exercise dubbed Caribwave/Lantex 11.

The Territory is participating in this event for the third year now.  This year’s exercise focused on assisting schools and emergency responders in testing their earthquake and tsunami preparedness efforts. Additionally, to determine the effectiveness of the National Emergency Broadcast, Alert and Communications Systems.  The exercise provided a simulated tsunami warning, watch and advisory messages from the West Coast Alaska Tsunami Warning Centre (WCATWC) and the Puerto Rico Seismic Network (PRSN) based on the 1867 event with a magnitude 7.6 earthquake located at 18.2 N, 65.3 W or near the Virgin Islands.

Training Officer at the DDM, Carishma Hicks said, “We have been planning this exercise for the past two months and it was our intention to test all national alert and broadcast systems and to physically evacuate schools, government offices, private sector agencies and to determine how this type of response would be performed.  We also evaluated how the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force would secure key Government Officials who would be needed in the initial response phase. These exercises are especially important as they help to identify weaknesses in plans and procedures.”

As part of the exercise the DDM sounded the 7 siren units located in The Settlement, North Sound, The Valley, Great Harbour, Cane Garden Bay, Russell Hill and East End.  The National Emergency Broadcast System was activated and allowed for a test message to be sent simultaneously from the National Emergency Operations Centre to ZROD, ZBVI, ZKING and ZCCR and on Cable TV Channel 51.  In addition, 52 Smart radios located in schools, clinics, national parks posts, police and fire stations were activated providing a warning tone and a message which was designed to trigger an evacuation of these facilities.  The DDM also utilised its VHF and HF radio frequencies to send information to over 100 stations monitoring the network and to boaters listening on channel 16. Contact was also made with regional partners including Puerto Rico Seismic Network (PRSN).

Ms. Hicks further said, “We were pleased with the response especially from the schools.  Evaluators were positioned at all schools to record their actions and provide advice on how plans and procedures can be improved based on the results documented. 

Thirty-three countries were expected to participate in the exercise.  The event was organized by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) established under the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). 

Earthquake and Tsunami events occurring in and around the Virgin islands are monitored by the West Coast Alaska Tsunami Warning Centre and the P R S N.  These organisations provide notification to the DDM and the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force in the event that any earthquake or tsunami is recorded, based on a well-defined protocol.  PRSN, through an agreement with the Government of the Virgin Islands, has installed a number of seismic station and strong motion sensors throughout the Territory.  They monitor and maintain these units and have provided significant resources and technical support to the DDM for many years now.