March 26, 20052436Views

Close to 4,500 persons across the British Virgin
Islands evacuated buildings and followed the new evacuation routes to
designated assembly areas today as part of the annual tsunami simulation
exercise, Caribe Wave/ Lantex 2014.

Apart from 2011, when all schools tested their
evacuation procedures, this is the highest number of persons to have
participated in the annual simulation since the Department of Disaster
Management (DDM) started the exercise in 2009.

DDM’s Training Officer, Ms. Carishma Hicks was highly
enthused with the level of participation this year. “This year we had a greater
response from the private sector when compared to previous years. Immediately
after the initial announcement of the exercise in February, we started receiving
calls and emails with persons expressing their interest in participating,” Ms.
Hicks said.

She added, “Persons are evidently more informed about
the potential impact of earthquakes and tsunamis on the British Virgin Islands
and are keen to understand what actions to take in the event of hazard impact.
We at the DDM are very happy to witness this growing interest and we encourage

The tsunami simulation exercise, staged annually, is
an international initiative with participation from the Caribbean as well as
Central and North America. Each year, a different scenario is used to test the
level of national response to these types of events.

Over the years, the DDM has developed its tsunami and
earthquake programme with the introduction of tsunami models that have
generated new evacuation maps for the Territory. These new maps and evacuation signs
have been installed on Tortola and Anegada and in the coming weeks, similar
signs will available on Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke.

Following the debriefing session held immediately after
the exercise, Director of the DDM, Ms. Sharleen DaBreo said,” We are very
pleased with the feedback from the evaluators and it was obvious that the
departments which have continuously worked on improving their plans, performed
exceptionally well in this exercise. There are however, a number of critical
departments, agencies and private sector organisations that must come onboard
and ensure that a comprehensive approach to disaster management is continuously
practiced throughout the Territory.”

Encouraged by the interest shown by the sister island
representatives and the number of requests received this year for presentations
at various businesses, the DDM officers have been busy in the field facilitating
the installation of additional early warning components, public awareness
initiatives, training and talks with various organisations.

 “It is always
very motivating for the team at DDM when exercises of this kind can be so
strongly supported by the Governor, Premier and Ministers of Government. This
speaks volumes about why the disaster management programme in the BVI has been
sustained over the years. We continue to identify champions to promote disaster
risk reduction and to ensure the continued awareness and education of the BVI
population. The involvement of the political directorate in today’s exercise
was a signal that there is commitment and strong leadership geared towards
improving the level of national preparedness and ensuring that we are building
resilient communities in the BVI.”

 It is not a
matter of if a catastrophic earthquake/tsunami will occur in this part of the
region, it is simply a matter of when it occurs, will we know what to do? Only
continuous practicing of plans and procedures can prepare us for these events.

Since the start of 2014, the region has been experiencing
significantly large felt earthquakes and regional scientists are warning of the
potential for a massive event to occur in the region.    

 Photo Captions:

  • Premier, Dr. the Hon.
    D. Orlando Smith and other members of the BVI Cabinet participated in
    today’s tsunami simulation exercise and were seen following the evacuation
    route to the designated assembly area. 
  • His Excellency,
    Governor Boyd Mc Cleary participated in the tsunami simulation exercise,
    reporting to the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) which would
    be activated in the event of a real emergency. Governor McCleary is
    pictured here with DDM Director, Ms. Sharleen DaBreo reviewing one of the
    newly created tsunami evacuation maps. 
  • Some of the participants in the simulation exercise cross the Sir Francis Drake Highway enroute to their designated assembly area. They are guided by the tsunami evacuation route sign installed by the DDM, which is visible in the background.