Growing Interest in Tsunami Preparedness Exercise in the Pacific
Nearly all 15 UNESCO Apia cluster countries participated in the Pacific Wave 2011 Exercise (PacWave11) which turned out to be the biggest tsunami preparedness exercise since the Pacific started its international warning and communication exercises in 2006.
The exercise was carried out during 9-10 November 2011 to allow Pacific countries to test their tsunami early warning system procedures, communications as well as national and local coordination. It was specifically aimed to assist countries in strengthening their preparedness and response to local and regional tsunamis, which wreaked havoc in minutes in the 2009 Samoa, 2010 Chile, and 2011 Japan tsunami disasters.
During PacWave11, the regional Tsunami Warning Centres (TWCs) based in Alaska, Hawaii and Japan issued tsunami test messages for their respective areas for altogether 10 tsunami source scenarios from around the Pacific. Countries were given option to choose one or more of the scenarios for their national exercise. Upon receipt of the test messages at the country level, the national centres were expected to exercise their decision-making protocols to issue warnings and advice to their stakeholders and people selected to participate in the exercise. In some countries, exercises continued down to the local levels and included community and school evacuations. For example, in Fiji over 17,000 students and teachers from 27 schools in Suva participated in an evacuation drill, while in Samoa residents from eight villages in the southern coastal areas of the main islands of Upolu and Savaii evacuated during the course of the national exercise.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC), which is responsible for providing warnings and advisories for bulk of the Pacific, introduced new experimental tsunami forecast products as part of PacWave1. It included maps indicating the level(s) of threat for each country based on the five threat levels being trialed for the Pacific region. During the post-exercise phase, each country will be submitting an evaluation questionnaire to report on their exercise and feedback to the new products. A summary report assessing the performance of the PTWS is expected to be ready by June 2012 and should be available from www.pacwave.info
PacWave11 was organized by UNESCO IOC's Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (ICG/PTWS) through its PacWave11 Exercise Task Team.