Virgin Islands residents are reminded that it’s important to #BeReady for earthquakes year-round, as the VI is in a seismically active area.
Earthquakes of approximate magnitude 4 and below do not typically cause any impacts, said Director of Disaster Management Jasen Penn.
“Minor earthquakes are extremely common, but the majority of the time they are not felt by persons,” Mr. Penn said, adding “Together with partners like the Puerto Rico Seismic Network (PRSN), Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre, the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez Strong Motion Programme, and the United States Geological Survey, even minor earthquakes are monitored closely.”
From December 1, 2022 through January 9, 2023, PRSN recorded 76 earthquakes ranging from barely detectable magnitude 0, to a magnitude 4.35 event on Christmas Day.
The Director went on to say earthquakes that rise to the level of being significant are widely reported to the public to ensure that persons can be aware if they are at risk.
“If there is a threat of a secondary hazard, such as a tsunami, we notify the public via radio, press announcements, social media, the DDM Alert App, and if necessary, the early warning sirens,” Mr. Penn said.
Residents can always view the latest significant earthquakes for the PR/VI area on the Puerto Rico Seismic Network website https://redsismica.uprm.edu/index.php.
Agreements with international partners such as the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre enable the department to rapidly receive and disseminate any safety information regarding threats that originate from distant earthquakes.
Mr. Penn, who is also Vice Chairman of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Tsunami and other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (ICG/CARIBE EWS), added that redundancies are built into emergency alerting protocols.
“If there is a need for a tsunami evacuation, for instance, the local population can be alerted by DDM, or by the Royal Virgin Islands Police, or as a failsafe, directly by our partners at the PTWC,” he explained.
The Department of Disaster Management takes this time to remind the community that earthquakes can occur at any time. During an earthquake, it is important to stay calm. If you are inside, stay there; move away from ceiling fans, glass windows and doors, or anything that may fall. Get under a desk or sturdy piece of furniture cover your head and hold on. If outdoors, move into an open area away from trees, building, or utility wires and poles. During an earthquake, the more you move, the more likely you are to be hurt, so refrain from entering or exiting a building during shaking.
Residents can access resources to help them plan and prepare for possible disasters, such as the emergency shelter list, emergency plan templates for families, and continuity planning templates for businesses, on the DDM website http://www.bviddm.com.