Tsunami alert exercise in Caribbean
CARIBE WAVE 11 was planned in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) Intergovernmental Coordination Group for Tsunami and Other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (ICG/CARIBE-EWS), the Centro de Coordinación para la Prevención de los Desastres Naturales en América Central (CEPREDENAC), NOAA, and the U.S. National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program (NTHMP).
According to CDEMA's Executive Director "the exercise will test effectiveness and strengthen alert, monitoring and warning systems among all the emergency management organizations, national focal points for tsunami alerts, weather forecast offices and national coast guard regionally."
This exercise is timely, as the devastating impacts resulting from the major tsunami generated by the 9.0 Earthquake off Eastern Japan on March 11, 2011, certainly highlights the loss and dislocation brought to bear on a society, government and people by such phenomena. It validates the region's call for a Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) approach that is both multi-hazard not just hurricane-centric, proactive and stakeholder-based.
The simulation will assist tsunami preparedness efforts throughout the Caribbean region and provide an opportunity for emergency responders throughout to test and update tsunami response plans. Recent events, including the 2004 Indian Ocean, 2009 Samoa, earthquakes and tsunamis in Haiti and Chile in 2010 and 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, attest to the importance of proper planning for tsunami response.
Recent experience underlines the crucial importance of rapid transmission of information and has shown that national authorities must take risk into account at all levels, including education about hazards in schools, urban planning in coastal zones, modification of building codes and materials, evacuation plans for communities and organization of effective emergency services.
The participation of the CDEMA's member countries will vary. Some states, including Anguilla will mount full scale simulations including community evacuations, while others including Barbados and Grenada will stage orientation exercises sensitizing emergency management officials to the SOPs.
In the wake of the devastating Sumatran catastrophe of 2004, CARICOM's Community Council determined CDEMA should support regional efforts to establish a tsunami and other coastal hazards warning system on behalf of its Member States. As part of the regional initiative, CDEMA secured support through a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) grant of USD$ 475,000 and in-kind contributions of US$ 353,300 from the region to assist in empowering at-risk coastal communities to prepare for and respond to the threat of tsunamis and other coastal hazards.
The project which ended in 2010 enabled the development and dissemination of multi-media public awareness and education materials and early warning protocols and procedures. Following the devastating Haiti Earthquake, the Australian Government has made available funds to support the continuation of CDEMA's initiatives in support of tsunami preparedness in four (4) other countries.
The recent tsunami certainly makes a clarion call to examine opportunities for global broad-based support to invest in strengthening the monitoring and detection systems in the region to enrich the protocol, complement the public education components and save lives.