Friday, March 4 – Principals and school administrators from public and private schools throughout the Territory gathered at the DDM on 2nd March, 2011 to discuss preparations for the upcoming National Earthquake and Tsunami Full Scale Simulation Exercise scheduled for this month.
This year’s event will focus on assisting schools and emergency responders in earthquake and tsunami preparedness efforts. The exercise will provide simulated tsunami warning, watch and advisory messages from the Alaska Tsunami Warning Centre (ATWC) and the Puerto Rico Seismic Network (PRSN) based on a hypothetical magnitude 7.6 earthquake located near the Virgin Islands.
Schools will be expected to respond to the local early warning signals to be activated by the DDM and to fully implement their disaster management plans. Evaluators will be positioned at schools to assess the actions of principals, school administrators and students and to determine the effectiveness of school plans.
Planning and Preparedness Manager, Sheniah Armstrong in her presentation to the gathering said, “It is important for every institution to have a plan and for opportunities to be made available for testing these plans. There is also a legal requirement for Government departments, agencies and educational institutions to have these plans approved by the DDM in accordance with the Disaster Management Act, 2003.” She further said, “Regular exercising of plans is critical to maintaining the desired level of readiness for an emergency especially in considering preparations for earthquakes and tsunamis which are infrequent but high impact events.”
On the day of the exercise students will be evacuated from their school compound and are expected to be taken to designated safe locations outlined in the institution’s disaster management plans. In addition, the National Tsunami Warning Protocols will be utilised to fully evaluate the actions of the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) and to determine how effectively the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force handles messages once received.
In explaining why a full scale format for the exercise was chosen Training Officer Ms. Carishma Hicks said, “The Full Scale exercise format will allow for an actual deployment and mobilisation of appropriate personnel and resources needed to demonstrate operational capabilities. The NEOC will undergo a full activation and emergency responders are expected to fully participate and to use the opportunity to test their plans as well.” She further said, “It is not the intention of the DDM to announce the date or time of the exercise because we want to have some level of realism built into the actions taking place to determine whether or not plans and procedures will actually work when a real event occurs.”
The exercise will be conducted in other counties including those in the Western Atlantic, Caribbean and adjacent regions. It is being designed and coordinated by the Inter-governmental Coordination Group for Tsunami and other Coastal Hazards Warning Systems for the Caribbean and adjacent regions.