» Tsunami Warning Exercise in the Caribbean and Northwestern Atlantic
24.03.2014 - UNESCOPRESS

Tsunami Warning Exercise in the Caribbean and Northwestern Atlantic

© US National Tsunami Warning CenterTsunami travel time contours in hours for the CARIBE WAVE/LANTEX 2014 exercise.

31 Members States and 16 territories* in the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions are preparing to participate in a simulated tsunami alert exercise in the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions on 26 March 2014. Participants include almost 1,000 organizations and 100,000 people. The goal is to test the Tsunami and other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions, which was established in 2005 by the countries of the region in collaboration with UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO).

The exercise, titled Caribe Wave/Lantex 14, will simulate a widespread Tsunami Warning and Watch situation throughout the Caribbean and North-western Atlantic which requires the implementation of local tsunami response plans. The scenario developed by the organizers of the exercise begins with a fictitious earthquake and tsunami generated 270 miles west of Gibraltar at 6:00 am Atlantic Standard Time (10:00 UTC -Universal Time Coordinated) on 26 March 2014, modelled after the earthquake and tsunami that occurred on 1 November 1755. The tsunami generated by the earthquake over 200 years ago affected the coasts of Portugal, Spain, North Africa, and the Caribbean. While the first tsunami waves reached Lisbon in about 20 minutes it was observed in Antigua about 9.3 hours after the earthquake. Later waves, with estimated run-up heights of 7 meters, were observed in the Netherlands Antilles.

The exercise is designed to test the effectiveness of alert, monitoring and warning systems among all emergency management organizations (national focal points for tsunami alerts, weather forecast offices, national coast guard, etc.) throughout the region. The objective is to determine whether Caribbean countries are ready to respond in the event of a dangerous tsunami.

Previous experience underlines the crucial importance of rapid transmission of information. It has also shown that national authorities must take risk into account at all levels, including education about hazards in schools, urban planning in coastal zones, modification of building codes and materials, evacuation plans for communities and organization of effective emergency services. Rapid population growth and the development of tourism in coastal areas, which have further increased the region’s vulnerability in recent decades, must be taken into account.

A description of the scenario and examples of tsunami messages from the US National Tsunami Warning Centre (NTWC) and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) are included in a handbook prepared for the exercise. The US NTWC is currently responsible for providing tsunami alerts to the Atlantic coasts of U.S. and Canada, the Gulf of Mexico coast, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands (US and British) while the PTWC is the interim Regional Tsunami Watch Provider for the other countries in the Caribbean Sea and Adjacent Regions.

Organizers:
The exercise is sponsored by the IOC-UNESCO Intergovernmental Coordination Group for Tsunami and Other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (ICG/CARIBE-EWS), the Caribbean Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the Coordination Centre for the Prevention of Natural Disasters in Central America (CEPREDENAC), the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and by the U.S. National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program (NTHMP – a partnership of 29 States and territories and three federal agencies).

*Member States and Territories involved:
Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curaçao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, France (Martinique, Guadeloupe, St Martin, Guyane), Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Netherlands (Bonaire, Saba, 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), United States (Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands), Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of).

Media Contact:
Agnès Bardon, UNESCO Press service.
Tel :+33 (0) 1 45 68 17 64,
Email: a.bardon(at)unesco.org

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