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Press Releases & Statements

Virgin Islands Territorial 
Emergency Management Agency

_______________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release

March 31, 2015

VITEMA Director Commends Tsunami Preparedness Week Participants

Activities Culminated with School Evacuation Drill & After Action Review

Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) Director-Designee Mona Barnes extends her sincere appreciation to all of the government departments, non-government organizations and private sector businesses that participated in National Tsunami Preparedness Week activities last week. 

During National Tsunami Preparedness Week, several entities participated in a Caribbean region tsunami response exercise by testing their notification protocols and evacuation procedures including; the Department of Education, the 31st Legislature of the Virgin Islands, Department of Finance, Department of Labor, Department of Human Services, the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands, the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands, the Frederiksted Health Center, the American Red Cross of the Virgin Islands, WICO, Banco Popular of the Virgin Islands, First Bank, Crown Bay Marina, and Tropical Shipping.

Activities ended Monday with the Department of Education’s final tsunami school evacuation drill at the Elena Christian Junior High School on St. Croix and VITEMA’s After Action Review of the tsunami response exercise which was held on March 25th. The exercise, titled Caribe Wave/LANTEX 15, simulates an 8.0 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Panama that generates a tsunami and a widespread tsunami warning.

“Preparedness is the key to surviving a tsunami and I want to commend exercise participants for stepping up and being proactive in ensuring that everyone within their organization knows how to get out of harm’s way,” Barnes said. “In particular, I want to applaud the Department of Education and its contractor CDR Maguire for using the tsunami response exercise to test and validate their school evacuation plans. The plan will ensure that school administrators know what to do to protect the lives of their students and staff in the event of a tsunami.” 

In addition to the Elena Christian Junior High School, the department and CDR Maguire held school evacuation drills at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School and Addelita Cancryn Junior High School on St. Thomas and Arthur A. Richards Junior High School and Pearl B. Larsen Elementary School on St. Croix. The department safely evacuated more than 2,000 students, teachers and school staff in five drills, which included crossing major roadways to reach designated safe zones.

Barnes also expressed her gratitude to local broadcasters and media who help spread the information on the siren system test and to the VI Police Department and VI Rescue which provided exceptional support for the Department of Education’s evacuation drills. No injuries or significant traffic delays were reported.

As part of the exercise, VITEMA tested its 22 (twenty-two) tsunami sirens located throughout the territory – 10 on St. Croix, 10 on St. Thomas and two (2) on St. John. Based on feedback given during the After Action Review, VITEMA will work to determine whether the sirens can be adjusted to be louder and will also closely review areas where new sirens should be placed.

The After Action Review also revealed the need for more public education to ensure residents and businesses understand how the tsunami siren system operates as well as which areas are considered evacuation zones versus safe zones. 

“Next year, VITEMA will conduct a similar exercise and we are encouraging more government entities, businesses, non-government organizations and individuals to participate in the annual tsunami response exercise,” Barnes said.

For more information about tsunamis and how they may impact the Virgin Islands, visit www.VITEMA.gov, www.tsunami.gov or www.TsunamiZone.org. To register for VI Alert, visit www.VITEMA.gov.

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