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The Territory’s newly re-installed and upgraded National Emergency Broadcasting and Alert Network was activated in the just concluded annual earthquake and tsunami response exercise, Caribe Wave.
Training Officer with the DDM and the Exercise Controller, Ms. Carishma Hicks said she was pleased with the diversity of alert modalities used during the exercise to disseminate messages to daycares, pre-schools, primary and secondary schools, the community college, government departments, statutory boards, accommodation providers, private sector businesses, financial institutions and individuals within the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
Ms. Hicks said, “With approximately 10% of the BVI population participating in the exercise, we at DDM recognise that individuals, business and organisations have access to different hazard alerting methods. For Caribe Wave 19, we tested nine different platforms which included eight sirens on four islands. In addition to these means, we also used the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force to do community drive-throughs in heavily populated areas to notify persons via loud hailer of the possible tsunami threat.”
This year’s exercise simulated a 6.0 magnitude earthquake associated with a submarine volcanic eruption and subsequent collapse of Kick’em Jenny. This event generated a tsunami causing the DDM to activate the newly re-installed and upgraded Emergency Alert Network using various notification modes including the Short Message Service (SMS), sirens, VHF Radio Communication, RDS Smart Radios, the DDM App, Social media, email and the DDM Website.
Ms. Hicks said although several means were used to disseminate alert messages within the Territory, the public is reminded that each alert modality has a unique operating environment that could result in messages being sent at different times.
“The public is encouraged to take the appropriate actions as soon as possible after receiving a message from any of the elements of the network,” she said, adding, “In a real event if persons see visible signs such as drawback of water at coastal locations, it can be a warning that a tsunami is approaching the shoreline and therefore they should move to higher ground immediately. It is also important to remember that tsunamis are usually preceded by strong earthquakes that will require immediate action to protect their lives.”
Ms. Hicks further stated that the exercise and the feedback from the participating public highlighted some major improvements in how information on imminent threats is shared with the public and how the alerts are issued. She said the DDM was able to fully assess the coverage of the re-installed sirens that are used for outdoor notification through the use of Siren Range Maps. The results proved that the coverage in some areas was much greater than the stipulated range.
The DDM wishes to convey thanks to all public and private sector agencies as well as individuals that participated in this year’s exercise including the inaugural Tsunami Run/Walk that provided an opportunity for individuals to practice moving to higher ground using several of the tsunami evacuation routes throughout the Territory.
Thursday, March 14 also marked the tenth anniversary of the department coordinating the Territory’s participation in the annual earthquake and tsunami response exercise.
The public is encouraged to provide feedback on the exercise by visiting the DDM website at www.bviddm.com or Facebook page @BVI DDM and complete the feedback survey. The public’s feedback will be collated and used to assist the department and other agencies in improving their alert, preparedness and response capabilities.
CARIBE WAVE is the annual tsunami exercise of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This exercise is coordinated together with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Caribbean regional emergency management stakeholders (CEPREDENAC [Coordination Centre for the Prevention of Natural Disasters in Central America], CDEMA [Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency], and EMIZA [French Inter-Ministerial for the Antilles Estate Major Zone]). The purpose of this exercise is to advance tsunami preparedness efforts in the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions.