Tortola, British Virgin Islands, April 29th, 2014 (DDM) - The British Virgin Islands is TsunamiReady. The recognition has been bestowed on the Territory by the US based National Weather Service (NWS) which piloted the initiative in the United States to promote tsunami preparedness as a collaborative effort in vulnerable communities.

The recognition is granted after communities are able to demonstrate work undertaken to improve the safety of residents and visitors in vulnerable areas. A site verification visit was also conducted last week by Manager of the NWS Caribbean Tsunami Warning Programme, Mrs. Christa von Hillerbrandt-Andrade followed by a meeting of the TsunamiReady Verification Team.Director of the Department of Disaster Management, Ms. Sharleen DaBreo affixes her signature to the TsunamiReady application after thorough review during the site verification visit.

A congratulatory letter addressed to His Excellency, Governor Boyd McCleary states that the BVI has “complied with all the recommended guidelines and thus becomes the second jurisdiction to receive this international recognition.” The letter signed by Mrs. Hillerbrandt-Andrade states that the BVI is now “better prepared to save the lives of its residents and visitors from tsunamis through better planning, education and awareness.” It further acknowledges that “no community is tsunami proof, but TsunamiReady can help communities save lives.”

Welcoming the newly attained status, Governor McCleary said, “I am delighted to learn of the recognition that BVI is a Tsunami Ready jurisdiction. This is a tribute to the sterling work over many years by the staff at the Department for Disaster Management (DDM) who deserve our thanks and warm congratulations.”

Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE said the BVI Government is extremely pleased with the international recognition of the Territory as a TsunamiReady jurisdiction.

“We continue to stress the need for the Territory to remain alert and in a constant state of preparedness. The BVI has always tried to stay ahead of the curve in disaster planning and mitigation in the Caribbean,” he expounded, adding, “As the second jurisdiction outside of the United States to receive TsunamiReady recognition, the certification speaks to our ongoing commitment to the outstanding work by the DDM to ensure that the entire community is prepared and responsive in the event of a catastrophic event.”

Deputy Governor, Mrs. Inez Archibald and Permanent Secretary, Mr. David Archer have also extended congratulations to the DDM and its many partners and stakeholders who continue to demonstrate the importance of disaster preparedness and disaster risk reduction.

The site verification process by the NWS official included a visit to the DDM office which transitions into the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) in the event of impending hazard impact as well as the tsunami warning focal point which is the Control Room of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force. A tsunami warning focal point is necessary because the DDM is not manned around the clock. In the event that there is threat of a tsunami when the DDM office is closed, the information will be received by the RVIPF Control Room and the necessary actions taken to contact the relevant persons in authority and activate warning and notification systems to alert the public.

Mrs. Hillerbrandt-Andrade said she was very impressed with the very robust system for receiving and disseminating tsunami messages, both at the DDM office and the focal point at the RVIPF; as well as the signage that has begun to be installed, an important factor to let people know where they should go if a tsunami should occur.

“The evacuation maps have been prepared and this is an excellent tool because it specifically addresses where the threat areas are and which are the safe locations. It is very gratifying and you are very fortunate in the BVI to have a lot of places to run to; there is a lot of high ground in most of the Territory although there are challenges in places like Anegada where there is not much high ground,” she said.Manager of the NWS Caribbean tsunami warning Programme, Mrs. Christa von Hillerbrandt-Andrade interacts with officers of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force during the site verification visit.

The drive to become Tsunami Ready began more than two years ago with acquisition of tsunami inundation data which led to the creation of evacuation maps and routes. Director of the DDM, Ms. Sharleen DaBreo commended the DDM staff for their dedication to the application process. “It was a very long road but the team demonstrated a high level of commitment to attaining the recognition which can now become part of our tourism package for promoting a safe environment for visitors. For the Territory, it means that there is a greater awareness of this specific hazard made possible through the evacuation maps and signage which are now visible throughout the communities and through a continuous public education and awareness programme,” she stated.

The TsunamiReady recognition is valid for three years. The official award will be presented during an upcoming meeting of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for Tsunami and other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (CARIBE EWS) scheduled to take place next month in St. Thomas, USVI.

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