February 21, 20051921Views

The British Virgin
Islands is in the final stages of preparation to seek certification as a
Tsunami Ready community.

The Tsunami Ready
certification programme, developed by the United States based, National Weather
Service (NWS) is designed to help coastal communities at risk of tsunamis,
reduce the potential for disastrous tsunami-related consequences.

Tsunami readiness
efforts in the BVI are being spearheaded by the Department of Disaster
Management (DDM). Officers from the department were busy in the field this week
installing tsunami evacuation signs.

DDM’s Technical
Planning Officer, Mr. Christopher Williams said the signs are designed to guide
persons in vulnerable areas to the nearest assembly point where they will be
required to wait for the all clear, signaling that the danger has passed.

“The signs clearly
state Tsunami Evacuation Route and there’s an accompanying arrow to identify
the route to be followed. Signs are being placed at all major intersections to
accurately guide persons to the areas that are considered safe zones,” Mr.
Williams explained.

The DDM cautions that
under the Criminal Code 1997 of the BVI, it is an offence to damage or destroy
property belonging to another and to endanger the life of another through such
damage or destruction and are liable to imprisonment for up to five years on
summary conviction or up to ten years for conviction on indictment.

The evacuation signs
installation is actually the end stage of the tsunami readiness process. Prior
to that, the DDM was involved in the initial stages of the process which
primarily involved the creation of tsunami evacuation maps.

 “A lot of time was spent in the design phase,
ensuring that the maps accurately reflected the situation on the ground and
that they met international specifications,” Mr. Williams explained.

He added, “The DDM is
extremely grateful to have had the collaboration of National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States, particularly Ms.
Christa von Hillebrandt-Andrade, who worked tirelessly with the department,
providing the necessary guidance and reviewing the drafts produced.”

Director of the DDM,
Ms. Sharleen DaBreo said obtaining Tsunami Ready certification is a natural
progression for disaster management in the BVI. “The BVI is located in an
active seismic zone and we therefore face the threat of tsunamis. The region
has been lucky thus far, not to have any tsunamis of catastrophic proportions
but historic records show several possible tsunamis occurring up to 2010. Much
of the work in disaster management focuses on mitigation and it is therefore
important that the BVI take measures to reduce the potential impact of a
tsunami,” Ms. DaBreo stated.

The installation of
tsunami evacuation signs was a collaborative effort and required consent from
the City Manager and the Town and Country Planning Department as well as the
BVI Electricity Corporation which readily granted permission for the signs to
be mounted on its utility poles.

Relatedly, the DDM is
in the midst of preparation for the annual simulation exercise which is
scheduled for March 26. Ms. DaBreo is encouraging the general public to use the
upcoming exercise as an opportunity to test their tsunami readiness. “Caribewave/Lantex
14 is a tsunami simulation exercise and while it is organized externally, it
provides the DDM with an opportunity to evaluate the operational readiness of
the National Emergency Alert and Broadcast System; evaluate the level of
preparedness for earthquake and/or tsunami event and also test the tsunami
evacuation routes. For the general public, it’s an ideal time to test your
disaster management plans. Having a plan is good but if you do not test it, you
would not know whether or not it works until an actual event and then, it would
be too late,” the DDM Director said.

Persons wishing to
register for Caribewave/Lantex 14 can call the DDM at 468-4200 or send an email
to [email protected].