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Press Releases & Statements

Virgin Islands Territorial 
Emergency Management Agency

For Immediate Release

March 20, 2015

VITEMA to Observe National Tsunami Preparedness Week, March 22-28

Public Encouraged to Take at Least One Step to Prepare for Tsunamis

The Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA), next week, will observe National Tsunami Preparedness Week, as part of the ongoing effort to raise public awareness about this deadly but rare event.

A tsunami is a series of large ocean waves that can be generated by a major earthquake, submarine slide, volcanic activity or meteorite. Tsunamis generated near the coastline can demolish coastal communities within minutes. Natural warning signs that a tsunami is approaching include a strong and long earthquake, sudden rise or fall of the ocean and a loud roar from the ocean. Those on or near the shoreline should immediately go to high ground or inland if these natural signs occur — whether or not official evacuation orders have been given.

"It's hard to put into perspective that a tsunami could occur because this type of event is so rare," said Mona L. Barnes, VITEMA Director-Designee. "The last time the Virgin Islands experienced a tsunami was 148 years ago, in 1867. But the entire Caribbean is located in a seismically active zone and the threat of a tsunami impacting the Virgin Islands is very real. It's not a matter 'if' but 'when' I want to convey that message clearly and encourage the community to take steps now to learn more about tsunamis and how to protect themselves."

Being prepared for tsunamis means understanding how a tsunami works, knowing what areas are considered a Tsunami Evacuation Zone, learning the evacuation routes to safe zones, and preparing a family disaster communication plan, Barnes said.

For more information about tsunamis and how they may impact the Virgin Islands and to view the USVI Tsunami Evacuation Maps and the All Hazards Siren Warning System, visit Then register your participation at

During National Tsunami Awareness Week, VITEMA will activate the siren warning system and practice its 911 notification protocol as part of a Caribbean-wide tsunami response exercise. Sirens territorywide will be activated at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. 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.

The Virgin Islands Department of Education, with support from the VITEMA, is also scheduled to conduct evacuation drills at several schools as part of National Tsunami Preparedness Week. Schools holding evacuation drills include Addelita Cancryn Junior High School and Eudora Kean High School on St. Thomas; and Arthur A. Richards Junior High School and Pearl B. Larsen Elementary School on St. Croix.

Other participants include the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, VI Police Department, the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands, Superior Court of the Virgin Islands, WICO and several private sector businesses.