Thousands evacuate for record BVI participation in Tsunami Exercise

Tortola, British Virgin Islands, March 26th, 2014 (DDM) - Close to 4,500 persons across the British Virgin Islands evacuated buildings and followed the new evacuation routes to designated assembly areas today as part of the annual tsunami simulation exercise, Caribe Wave/ Lantex 2014.

 

Apart from 2011, when all schools tested their evacuation procedures, this is the highest number of persons to have participated in the annual simulation since the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) started the exercise in 2009.

DDM’s Training Officer, Ms. Carishma Hicks was highly enthused with the level of participation this year. “This year we had a greater response from the private sector when compared to previous years. Immediately after the initial announcement of the exercise in February, we started receiving calls and emails with persons expressing their interest in participating,” Ms. Hicks said.

She added, “Persons are evidently more informed about the potential impact of earthquakes and tsunamis on the British Virgin Islands and are keen to understand what actions to take in the event of hazard impact. We at the DDM are very happy to witness this growing interest and we encourage it.”

The tsunami simulation exercise, staged annually, is an international initiative with participation from the Caribbean as well as Central and North America. Each year, a different scenario is used to test the level of national response to these types of events.

Over the years, the DDM has developed its tsunami and earthquake programme with the introduction of tsunami models that have generated new evacuation maps for the Territory. These new maps and evacuation signs have been installed on Tortola and Anegada and in the coming weeks, similar signs will available on Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke.

Following the debriefing session held immediately after the exercise, Director of the DDM, Ms. Sharleen DaBreo said,” We are very pleased with the feedback from the evaluators and it was obvious that the departments which have continuously worked on improving their plans, performed exceptionally well in this exercise. There are however, a number of critical departments, agencies and private sector organisations that must come onboard and ensure that a comprehensive approach to disaster management is continuously practiced throughout the Territory.”

Encouraged by the interest shown by the sister island representatives and the number of requests received this year for presentations at various businesses, the DDM officers have been busy in the field facilitating the installation of additional early warning components, public awareness initiatives, training and talks with various organisations.

“It is always very motivating for the team at DDM when exercises of this kind can be so strongly supported by the Governor, Premier and Ministers of Government. This speaks volumes about why the disaster management programme in the BVI has been sustained over the years. We continue to identify champions to promote disaster risk reduction and to ensure the continued awareness and education of the BVI population. The involvement of the political directorate in today’s exercise was a signal that there is commitment and strong leadership geared towards improving the level of national preparedness and ensuring that we are building resilient communities in the BVI.”

It is not a matter of if a catastrophic earthquake/tsunami will occur in this part of the region, it is simply a matter of when it occurs, will we know what to do? Only continuous practicing of plans and procedures can prepare us for these events.

Since the start of 2014, the region has been experiencing significantly large felt earthquakes and regional scientists are warning of the potential for a massive event to occur in the region.

Premier, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith and other members of the BVI Cabinet participated in today’s tsunami simulation exercise and were seen following the evacuation route to the designated assembly area. His Excellency, Governor Boyd Mc Cleary participated in the tsunami simulation exercise, reporting to the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) which would be activated in the event of a real emergency. Governor McCleary is pictured here with DDM Director, Ms. Sharleen DaBreo reviewing one of the newly created tsunami evacuation maps Some of the participants in the simulation exercise cross the Sir Francis Drake Highway enroute to their designated assembly area. They are guided by the tsunami evacuation route sign installed by the DDM, which is visible in the background.
CDEMA Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency. Resilience Way, Lower Estate, St. Michael Tel: (246) 434-4880, Fax: (246) 271-3660
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