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Caribbean and Northwestern Atlantic Tsunami Exercise

Published 23rd March 2016, 12:0pm

The Cayman Islands joined other Countries in the Caribbean as a participant in a tsunami response exercise on March 17, 2016. The purpose of this exercise was to evaluate local tsunami response plans, increase tsunami preparedness, and improve coordination throughout the Caribbean region and Northern Western Atlantic.

The exercise titled CARIBE WAVE 16 simulated a tsunami generated by a magnitude 8.7 earthquake at 10 am local time, occurring north of the Dominican Republic (Hispaniola Scenario). As a result, a widespread Tsunami Watch was generated throughout the Caribbean which required implementation of local tsunami response plans.

According to HMCI Director, McCleary Frederick, “The exercise provided a useful opportunity to test the current procedures of the regional Tsunami Warning System, the National Tsunami Plan and look at the responsiveness of our own communication protocols in the event that a tsunami wave threatens the Cayman Islands.”

A number of local agencies participated in the exercise including Hazard Management Cayman Islands, Emergency Communications 911, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, Cayman Islands National Weather Service and Government Information Services.

GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

Goal

• Review and enhance the existing National Tsunami Plan

Objectives

• Apply and review notification procedure outlined in Tsunami Plan

• Evaluate the use of the local Warning Phases for alerting the public and response services.

• Review, amend and develop, where applicable, response actions for the different response phase.

• Assign agencies to the response actions listed in the Tsunami Plan

• Activate NEOC for tsunami response. Evaluate the ability of responders to report to the NEOC in a timely fashion.

• Complete evaluation form for Caribe Wave 2013

• Evaluate notification procedures for a tsunami alert from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) – review of local equipment and capabilities.

• Evaluate the need for a feedback mechanism from the notification process. (Due to the peculiarity of the incident)

• Identify long, medium and short issues for tsunami preparedness and response planning.

• Review media templates in plan to be used for expediting media releases and public warning in the event of a tsunami.

Historical tsunami records from sources such as the National Geophysical Data Center

(NGDC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show that over 75 tsunamis have been observed in the Caribbean over the past 500 years.

Earthquake, landslide, and volcanic tsunami sources have all impacted the region. Over the past 500 years 4,561 people have lost their lives because of tsunamis in the Caribbean. In recent years, there has been an explosive population growth and influx of tourists along the Caribbean and Western Atlantic coasts increasing the tsunami vulnerability of the region.

With nearly 160 million people (Caribbean, Central America and Northern South America) now living in this tourist region and a major earthquake occurring about every 50 years, the question is not if another major tsunami will happen but when it happens, will the region be prepared for the tsunami impact? The risks of major earthquakes in the Caribbean and the possibility of a resulting tsunami are real and should be taken seriously.

For more information on the CARIBE WAVE 16 Exercise visit www.caribewave.info or contact Simon Boxall at Simon.boxall@gov.ky or phone (345) 526-2027.