GREAT BAY (DCOMM):--- On Wednesday various Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) from the national disaster management system Office of Disaster Management took part in a regional virtual bi-annual CaribeWave 13 tsunami exercise.
The exercise was simultaneously held in 40 countries and territories in or bordering the Caribbean Sea.
The purpose of the exercise was to assist tsunami preparedness efforts in the Caribbean and adjacent regions, including the U.S., Canadian East coasts, the Gulf of Mexico and Bermuda.
The CaribeWave/Lantex13 tsunami scenario simulated a tsunami generated by an 8.5 earthquake originating 57 miles North of Oranjestad, Aruba in the Caribbean Sea.
The virtual exercise served to test the communication channels among the ESFs on Sint Maarten.
Recent events, such as the 2004 Indian Ocean, 2009 Samoa, 2010 Haiti and Chile, and 2011 Japan earthquakes and tsunamis, attest to the importance of proper planning for tsunami response.
Historical tsunami records from sources such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) show that over 75 tsunamis with validity greater than one have been observed in the Caribbean over the past 500 years. These represent approximately 7-10 per cent of the world's oceanic tsunamis.
Earthquake, landslide, and volcanic tsunami sources have all impacted the region. Since 1842 at least 3,510 people have lost their lives to tsunamis in the Caribbean.
The exercise was organized by the UNESCO IOC Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Tsunami and other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean Sea and Adjacent Region, the US National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program Warning Coordination Subcommittee.
In 2011 Sint Maarten participated for the first time in CarbWave. A workshop was held for ESF-coordinators and other stakeholders.
In the last workshop the agreement was made between ESF-3 (Ministry VROMI) and ESF-5 (Police) to start working on indicating safe zones and evacuation routes.
According to Section Head of the Office of Disaster Management, Paul Martens, the latter is awaiting the storm surge and tsunami models from UNESCO-IHE. It is expected that these should be finished soon. Once this is done and the safe zones and evacuation routes are identified, the public can be duly informed.
A public awareness campaign will then be prepared. This would be the task of ESF-8 (Department of Communication) in collaboration with most Emergency Operations Center (EOC) members.