Civil protection authorities rallied for Tsunami Warning Exercise in North-Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean

The tsunami warning exercise that took place from 28 to 30 October in the North-Eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and connected seas was characterized by a good rate of participation by civil protection authorities and revealed a number of communication problems. The simulation set out to test the reactivity of the countries taking part in the Tsunami Early Warning and Mitigation established under the auspices of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).

Participation in the latest test was much higher than in the first exercise for the region, which took place in 2012 with the participation of only five national civil protection authorities compared to 14 this year. The exercise enabled the Emergency Response Coordination Centre of the European Commission, which cofounded the exercise, to test European civil protection mechanisms established to meet major disasters.

For some countries—Lebanon, Spain and the United Kingdom—the exercise represented an unprecedented level of involvement by the full range of players concerned by tsunami hazards. Romania and Russia were newcomers to the exercise, which revealed some technical dysfunctions in the transmission of alerts and showed the need to improve the reliability of communication technologies used to disseminate alert messages.

The exercise, named NEAMWave14, foresaw four earthquakes unleashing two tsunami events in the Mediterranean, one in the Atlantic Ocean, and a fourth in the Black Sea. Twenty of the 39 countries involved in the Tsunami Early Warning and Mitigation System in the North-Eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and connected seas (NEAMTWS) took part in the exercise: Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Malta, Monaco, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

The Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute (KOERI, Turkey), the National Tsunami Alert Centre (CENALT, France), the National Observatory of Athens (NOA, Greece) and the Portuguese Sea and Atmosphere Institute (IPMA, Portugal) sent out alerts concerning the four events simulated as part of the exercise.

The early warning system in the North-Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean is one of the four systems coordinated by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). It has been operational since 2012. The first such system was launched in the Pacific Ocean in 1965, five years after a deadly tsunami struck the coasts of Japan and Chile. The systems operating in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and Caribbean were established in the wake of the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004.

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Media contact: Agnès Bardon, UNESCO Press Service. +33 (0) 1 45 68 17 64, a.bardon(at)unesco.org