November 2, 20121187Views

Friday, 2nd November  – The Virgin Islands (VI) will soon have a system in place that will be able to record, evaluate and analyse data from all strong motion seismic stations located throughout the Territory.

A team of four engineers are currently in the Territory setting up a system that will link all the strong motion sensors that are placed throughout the Virgin Islands. The system will be housed at the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) and will be linked to the network at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez through the Puerto Rico Strong Motion Programme (PRSMP).

Dr. Jose Martinez Cruzado, Dr. Carlos Huerta, Erick Santana Torres and Jaffet Martinez Pagan, members of the PRSMP, have spent the last week carrying out maintenance on the sites and linking all sites to one unit at the DDM. This will allow the DDM and the University to access real time data during any seismic event that might occur in the Territory.

The Strong Motion Programme involves the capturing of data from all strong motion sensors throughout the Eastern Caribbean. Seismic activities of all sizes are recorded, including location and magnitude and this information is used to enhance seismic understanding and mitigation and to provide better guidance for building professionals who work within seismically active regions like the VI.

The new unit at the DDM will allow the DDM the see the data streams and waves from all tremors occurring in the Territory in real time.

According to Dr. Martinez, “In general, the PRSMP aims to provide the best strong motion data to the scientific and engineering communities to improve land use and construction of earthquake-resistant structures. The PRSMP focuses on: deploying and maintaining instrumentation for recording large earthquakes that will produce damaging ground motions on the island with as high a data quality and station density as possible; providing timely and appropriate information to the DDM, local authorities and engineers; and supporting and conducting research activities associated with these records, in particular the understanding of the effects of earthquakes in the Virgin Islands, and the mitigation of potential damage from future earthquakes.”

In conversation with the DDM staff, Dr. Carlos Huerta said, “The first step in providing an appropriate response to an earthquake related disaster is a timely knowledge of the magnitude, location and expected ground shaking and damage patterns from the event. This requires a modern and dense seismic network, capable not only of recording the earthquake ground motion without saturation, but also doing so in real-time and then providing data for near-immediate analysis, which can be made available to the DDM, the emergency services and the community at large.” 

The PRSMP currently acquire, analyse and archive broadband, short-period and strong-motion seismic data in continuous real-time format, using both Antelope Real-Time system and EarthWorm software. Their intention for the near future is to be able to monitor continuous streams of data from tidal gauges, such as the one located at Baughers Bay, buoys (for tsumani warning), GPS and digital weather stations. The Virgin Islands will be able to benefit from these as well. 

The University of Puerto Rico Mayaquez has been working formally with the DDM since 1999 to establish a network of Seismic and Strong Motion Sensors.  Funding for these activities has been a joint effort between the University and the Government of the Virgin Islands.  The seismic activity in the Virgin Islands is being monitored and analyzed by the University and watches and warning are issued by the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center through the Puerto Rico Seismic Network (PRSN).