20.03.2015 - UNESCOPRESS

Тsunami warning exercise in the Caribbean

A large-scale tsunami response exercise will take place in the Caribbean on 25 March. The purpose of this exercise is to test the Tsunami and other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions, established in 2005 under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO). It is designed to evaluate the response capacity of Caribbean countries and adjacent regions* in the event of a dangerous tsunami.

The organizers** of the test have prepared two scenarii. The first will simulate a tsunami generated by a magnitude 8.5 earthquake located just north of Panama in the southwest Caribbean Sea. The second involves a tsunami generated off the coast of Florida (United States).

The fictitious alert messages will be sent by the U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska (United States) to Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands. Other participating countries will receive fictitious alert messages sent by the US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) in Ewa Beach, Hawaii (United States).

The exercise, titled Caribe Wave/Lantex 15, aims to test the effectiveness of early warning, monitoring and warning for all actors involved in emergency management in the region (including national Tsunami Warning Focal Points, weather forecast offices, national coast guard services, emergency relief services, etc.). Countries can choose to extend the test at the local level by disseminating the alert via sirens or loudspeakers.

Experience has shown that timely dissemination of information is crucial. It has also shown that national authorities must take risk into consideration at all levels, from education and awareness in schools to urban planning in coastal zones, adapting construction standards and materials, planning evacuation procedures or implementation effective emergency services.

Over the last 500 years, 75 tsunamis have occurred in the Caribbean. Since the mid-19th century, tsunamis triggered by earthquakes, landslides or volcanic activity have claimed over 4,000 lives in the region (source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA). In recent decades, an explosion in population growth and the number of tourists in coastal areas have further increased the region’s vulnerability.

The first tsunami warning exercise in the area took place in 2011. The Tsunami and other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions was established in 2005, replicating the model of the Pacific, Indian Ocean and Northeast Atlantic systems. Created under the auspices of IOC-UNESCO, Tsunami Warning Systems help Member States to establish tsunami warning and response systems.

Un premier exercice d’alerte avait eu lieu en 2011. Le Groupe intergouvernemental de coordination du Système d’alerte rapide aux tsunamis et aux autres risques côtiers pour la mer des Caraïbes et les régions adjacentes (GIC/CARIBE-EWS) a été créé en 2005, sur le modèle de ceux qui existent dans le Pacifique, l’océan Indien et dans l’Atlantique du Nord-Est. Créés sous l’égide de la COI, les GIC aident les Etats membres à mettre en place des systèmes d’alerte aux tsunamis.

* Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, France (Martinique, Guadeloupe, St Martin, Guyane), Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Netherlands (Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten), Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom (Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Monserrat, Turks and Caicos), United States (Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands).

** The IOC-UNESCO Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Tsunami and other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (ICG/CARIBE-EWS), NOAA and the US National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program (NTHMP).

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


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