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Press Releases & Statements

Virgin Islands Territorial 
Emergency Management Agency

_______________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release

February 2, 2015

Caribbean-Wide Tsunami Exercise to be Conducted March 25, 2015

VITEMA to Activate the VI's Tsunami Warning Siren System During Exercise Play

The Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) will join other localities in the Caribbean as a participant in a tsunami exercise on March 25, 2015. The purpose of this exercise is to evaluate local tsunami response plans, increase tsunami preparedness, and improve coordination throughout the region.

“The recent 6.4 magnitude earthquake that jolted the VI and Puerto Rico reminds us that we are in seismically active zone and that we must be prepared for earthquakes and tsunamis,” said Elton Lewis, VITEMA Director. “This important exercise will test the current procedures of the USVI’s tsunami response plan and help us identify operational strengths and weaknesses.”

The exercise titled CARIBE WAVE/LANTEX 15 will simulate a widespread Tsunami Warning and Watch situation throughout the Caribbean which requires implementation of local tsunami response plans. As part of the exercise play, VITEMA will activate the USVI’s Tsunami Siren Warning System territorywide as well as test its protocol for emergency notification to first responders and key government officials.

Schools, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, private sector businesses and individuals are also encouraged to participate in the CARIBE WAVE/LANTEX 15 exercise by testing their emergency response plans in areas such as communication and evacuation. 

The exercise will simulate a major earthquake and tsunami generated just off the Caribbean coast of Panama at 10 a.m. Atlantic Standard Time on March 25, 2015. A handbook has been prepared which describes the scenario and contains tsunami messages from the National Tsunami Warning Center (NTWC) and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC). The US NTWC is currently responsible for providing tsunami alerts to the Atlantic coasts of the U.S. and Canada, the Gulf of Mexico coast, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (US and British), while the PTWC serves as the interim Regional Tsunami Service Provider for the other countries in the Caribbean Sea and adjacent regions.

Between 2010 and 2014, VITEMA installed 24 warning sirens as part of the Territory’s Tsunami Readiness Program. In addition, the Agency developed a tsunami response plan which serves as a living document to guide the public and private sectors and non-governmental organizations in preparing for, responding to and recovery from the devastating effects of a tsunami. In December 2013, VITEMA and the Office of the Governor also unveiled the first USVI Tsunami Evacuation Maps. In May 2014, the US Virgin Islands was designated as Tsunami Ready by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – National Weather Service (NOAA-NWS).

The exercise is sponsored by the UNESCO/IOC 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 Centro de Coordinacion para la Prevencion de los Desastres Naturales en America Central (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). For more information on the U.S. tsunami warning system, see www.tsunami.gov. For more information on the NTHMP, see http://nthmp.tsunami.gov. For more information on the ICG/CARIBE-EWS, see http://www.ioc-tsunami.org/content/view/36/1036/.

If any real tsunami threat occurs during the time period of the exercise, the exercise will be terminated.

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