The Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA), the VI Department of Education and other entities are gearing up for Caribe Wave LANTEX 15, a Caribbean region tsunami exercise to evaluate local response plans, increase tsunami preparedness, and improve coordination throughout the region. The exercise will be held on Wednesday, March 25.
As part of the exercise, at 10 a.m. VITEMA will activate all of its 24 tsunami sirens located in at-risk areas territorywide. VITEMA will also test its 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Center notification protocol and the Emergency Operations Center on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas will activate for a tabletop exercise.
The VI Department of Education will also participate in the exercise by conducting evacuation drills at seven schools located in the coastal areas considered at-risk in the event of a tsunami. The schools are: Arthur A. Richards Junior High School, Elena Christian Junior High School and Juanita Gardine Elementary School on St. Croix; Julius Sprauve School on St. John; and Ivanna Eudora Kean High School and Addelita Cancryn Junior High School on St. Thomas.
“At approximately 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 25, more than 2,000 students, teachers and other staff will practice evacuating their schools to a safe zone,” said Mona Barnes, VITEMA Director-Designee. “On St. Thomas, the Addelita Cancryn Junior High School students will be required to cross the Veteran’s Drive and Back Street to reach a safe area and on St. Croix, Juanita Gardine Elementary School students will cross Northside Road. Motorists should proceed with extreme cautious in these areas and to heed all traffic instructions.”
“We implore the motoring public to take note of the date and time of the exercise and to be extremely mindful of the students and educators practicing the how to reach a safe area if a tsunami is imminent,” Barnes said. “We apologize for any inconvenience but it is critical that these schools prepare by conducting full scale evacuation drills.”
Other participating entities that will exercise their emergency response plans include the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, the VI Waste Management Authority, and the VI Legislature, Department of Finance, US Marshal’s Office, Superior Court of the Virgin Islands and the VI Police Department on St. Thomas.
LANTEX simulates a widespread Tsunami Warning and Watch situation throughout the Caribbean which requires implementation of local tsunami response plans. As part of the exercise play, a major earthquake will generate a tsunami just off the Caribbean coast of Panama at 10 a.m. Atlantic Standard Time on March 25, 2015, that is expected to reach the USVI within two-and-a-half hours.
Private and parochial schools, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, private sector businesses and individuals are encouraged to also participate in the CARIBE WAVE/LANTEX 15 exercise by testing their emergency response plans in areas such as communication and evacuation.
“I also want to take a moment to remember those who lost their lives in the tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011,” Barnes said. “It is a stark reminder of why we must be prepared.” On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the Japan coast generated a local tsunami with waves of about 40 feet. Almost 19,000 people lost their lives in the tsunami while 22,000 residents were left homeless.
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), NOAA Caribbean Tsunami Warning Program and by the U.S. National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program
If any real tsunami threat occurs during the time period of the exercise, the exercise will be terminated.