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Successful Caribbean test demonstrates progress in regional tsunami readiness

Over 44,000 people from 30 Members States and 15 of the territories* in the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions participated in the second full scale regional tsunami exercise held on March 20, 2013. The goal was to test the Tsunami and other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (CARIBE EWS), which was established in 2005 by the countries of the region in collaboration with UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), ensuring that the national focal points responsible for the dissemination of the alert and first responders receive timely warning.

The scenario of the exercise simulated a tsunami generated by an earthquake measuring 8.5 on the Richter scale, originating 57 miles north of Oranjestad, Aruba in the Caribbean Sea. According to models, the whole Caribbean basin and parts of Western Atlantic would be impacted by such a tsunami, with the largest waves expected from this scenario along the coasts of Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Venezuela and Colombia and the southern Coast of Hispaniola, with coastal wave forecasts of up to 17 meters.

The exercise was initiated with a first dummy message issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) and the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (WC/ATWC), at 13:02 UTC (9:02 AST) and disseminated over its standard broadcast channels to all its stakeholders and focal points. The message was issued according to schedule to the official Tsunami Warning Focal Points, and none of the institutions have reported issues with the reception of the message from the Tsunami Warning Center.

The Puerto Rico Seismic Network and other national and regional organizations also issued messages for its areas of responsibility. Sirens, emails, emergency alert systems, text messages, media outlets, NOAA weather radio, and social media were used by many focal points to further disseminate the messages. In addition to the communication tests, exercises were conducted at various additional levels of magnitudes and sophistication and included seminars, table top exercises, video/web conferencing and drills.

Over 94% of all the countries and territories in the region participated in the exercise, up from 75% during the 1st test that had been conducted in 2011. Roughly 44,000 people registered to participate, with 481 organizations registered to receive the bulletins issued by PTWC, WC/ATWC and/or the Puerto Rico Seismic Network. These included 46 Tsunami Warming Focal Points (TWFP) and National Contacts, 131 Emergency Management Organizations at the international, state, territorial and local level, 104 schools and universities, 71 governmental agencies, 21 private organizations, as well as health facilities, members of the media and individuals.

Thru the exercise it has been possible to: Validate the issuance of tsunami products from the PTWC and WC/ATWC which currently serve the region. Validate the receipt and dissemination of tsunami products by Tsunami Warning Focal Points (TWFP). Begin a process of exposure to proposed enhanced PTWC products. Validate the readiness of the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions to respond to a local/regional source tsunami.

The Exercise Handbook, which was distributed in December 2012, and other information and supporting documents for the exercise are available online.

An online questionnaire is also available to provide feedback on the exercise, the new PTWC products and state of preparedness. All participants, including each of the countries and territories, are requested to respond by April 1, 2013. The results of the exercise will be presented at the 8th Session of the ICG CARIBE EWS to take place in Port of Spain, Trinidad from 29 April to 1 May 2013.

The exercise was conducted under the framework of the IOC-UNESCO Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Tsunami and Other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (ICG CARIBE EWS) and the US National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program.

Planning for CARIBE WAVE took over a year and was coordinated by a task team led by the US NWS Caribbean Tsunami Warning Program and included the IOC-UNESCO, CARIBE EWS officers, PTWC, WCATWC, the International Tsunami Information Center, regional emergency management organizations and Tsunami National Contacts and Tsunami Warning Focal Points.

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  • Aruba, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, France (Martinique, Guadeloupe, Guyane, St. Barthelemy, St Martin), Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Netherlands (Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius), Nicaragua, Panama, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Maarten, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom (Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos) and United States (Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands).