United States Virgin Islands

VITEMA receives NOAA grant for tsunami preparedness in the Virgin Islands

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The Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) has received a $42,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to begin work on tsunami preparedness in the Virgin Islands.

"This project will enable the Territory under the leadership of VITEMA to provide preparedness and mitigation activities as will as to integrate tsunami response with emergency response plans. The direction for VITEMA as a response coordinating agency which has been charted by Director Mark A. Walters and supported by the Office of the Governor is inclusive of not only hurricanes but all natural disasters including earthquake and tsunamis," Governor John P. deJongh Jr. said over the weekend.

To assist in coordinating the technical and scientific aspects of its tsunamis preparedness, VITEMA has secured the services of retired professor and oceanographer Roy Watlington as a consultant to organize this activity, according to VITEMA Director Mark A. Walters. Watlington will assist VITEMA in organizing and convening the core membership of the U.S. Virgin Islands National / State Working Group for tsunami preparedness.

"As VITEMA continues to move forward on all fronts including our preparedness for any type of disaster, this award by NOAA will allow the Virgin Islands to enhance its response to the threat of tsunamis. While much of our attention is now focused on hurricanes, we also realize that we are in an active seismic zone which may generate tsunamis such as the one in 1867," Walters said.

The tsunami preparedness program will result in a level of territory-wide tsunami awareness that will match the preparedness status of other advanced U.S. communities and in "Tsunami Ready" status for the Virgin Islands. Once the program is fully developed, evacuation plans will be published; evacuation routes will be publicized; general tsunami information brochures will be published and distributed to schools, community leaders, staffs of agencies with emergency functions and community centers in at-risk areas. The three at risk coastal communities in the Virgin Islands will be proposed to the National Weather Service for recognition as a "Tsunami Ready" ready area, which will mean completion of inundation modeling and mapping, identification and publicizing of evacuation routes, installation of signage and a program of staff training and public education about tsunami risk and response in the selected areas.