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The Cayman Islands joined other countries in the Caribbean as a participant in the regional tsunami response exercise.

Published 20th March 2018, 4:20pm

The Cayman Islands joined other countries in the Caribbean as a participant in the regional tsunami response exercise on Thursday, 15 March 2018

The exercise was modeled by NOAA NWS Caribbean Tsunami Warning program, and was titled CARIBE WAVE 18 and commenced at 9 a.m.

“The purpose of the exercise was to evaluate local tsunami response plans, increase tsunami preparedness, and improve coordination, especially of Government’s internal communications protocols for rapid onset events,” Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI) Deputy Director for Preparedness and Planning, Danielle Coleman, explained.

The exercise simulated a tsunami generated by a magnitude 8.1 earthquake off the coast of Columbia. As a result, a widespread Tsunami Warning and Watch situation occurred throughout the Caribbean which required implementation of local tsunami response plans.

“In January when the Islands had a tsunami threat, we recognised some inefficiencies in the way we responded, so we used that as a valuable learning experience and immediately began to take the necessary steps to address our protocols and procedures to ensure we could respond effectively,” Ms. Coleman said.

She added: “During our recent exercise we were able to get the messages out to the media, the Government websites and social media pages faster than we did following the Honduras earthquake tsunami threat and the Sol Fire event. We were also able to test Phase 1 of the Emergency Notification System (ENS), which involved issuing an alert through Radio Cayman. We are continuing to develop a robust ENS for the Cayman Islands with our partner OfReg, because there may be times when emergencies occur after hours, on nights and weekends for example, when often there are few people physically present in the television studios and radio stations. We are aware that we need to get critical messages out quickly, and we are pleased that the first phase is now in place and we can roll it out to include all local radio stations in this emergency interrupt system within the next few weeks.”

“I believe that regular exercises are essential to maintain operational readiness, review standard operating procedures and promote emergency preparedness,” Minister for the Ministry of Home Affairs, Hon. Tara Rivers, said. “It’s essential to ensure that Government employees at all levels, including our emergency responders, can work together with private sector stakeholders and community partners to deliver an effective team response to any natural disaster or critical incident situation.”

According to Ms. Coleman, “The exercise also provided a useful opportunity for other agencies such as the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS), Health Services Authority (HSA) Department of Tourism (DOT) and Government Information Services (GIS) to test their tsunami response procedures.” She added that efficient communication protocols in the event of a tsunami are crucial, not just for notifying the public but to ensure that Government agencies respond in a coordinated and effective manner.

GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

Goals:

• Test existing protocols

• Review and enhance the existing National Tsunami Plan

Objectives:

• Apply and review notification and receipt procedures from PTWC

• Send out tsunami holding statements, press releases and templates in a timely manner.

• Test the new emergency radio interrupt system

• Review, amend and develop, where applicable, response actions for the different response phases and agencies.

• Request that key agencies (such as first responders) test their own internal notification processes and response actions for rapid onset events.

• Review and test response actions listed in the Tsunami Plan

• Evaluate the need for a feedback and confirmation of receipt mechanism for the notification process. (Due to the peculiarity of the event)

• Identify long, medium and short issues for tsunami preparedness and response planning, including public warning in the event of a tsunami.