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Tsunami Warning and Emergency Response in the Caribbean: making sure everyone is prepared

Eleven percent of the world’s fatal tsunamis originated in the Caribbean and its adjacent seas, including the Atlantic, with almost 100 tsunamis observed that impacted 23 countries in the region in the past 500 years. Caribbean nations must be prepared to face the dangers of tsunami from distant, regional and local sources, and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) has been working with them to develop a regional warning system for tsunami and other coastal hazards. Two workshops are taking place in November 2013 to train the persons involved in risk reduction, disaster management, emergency response or national tsunami warning centres and focal points.

Participants were reminded that an effective tsunami warning system is achieved when all people in vulnerable coastal communities are prepared to respond appropriately and in a timely manner to an identified threat, i.e. the possibility of a potentially destructive tsunami. Effective preparedness requires round the-clock monitoring with real-time data streams and rapid alerting, well informed and prepared communities, a strong emergency management system, and close and effective cooperation between all stakeholders.

These training workshops are the first substantive activity after the recent establishment of the Caribbean Tsunami Information Center (CTIC) and targeted Tsunami Warning Focal Points (TWFPs) and Tsunami Emergency Response (TER) organizations in ten countries.   The 1-week training workshop covers essential topics of the end-to-end tsunami warning including event monitoring and detection, threat evaluation and warning, alert dissemination, emergency response, evacuation, and public action.   Training also emphasizes the development of sound tsunami warning and emergency response standard operating procedures (SOPs) as a key requirement for a successful end-to-end tsunami warning.  

The first workshop on Strengthening Standard Operating Procedures for Tsunami Warning and Emergency Response took place in the Dominican Republic on 4 – 8 November 2013. It was organized by the International Tsunami Information Center (ITIC), in collaboration with the Caribbean Tsunami Information Center (CTIC) and the Caribbean Tsunami Warning Program (CTWP) of the United States, with the support IOC-UNESCO, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Office for Barbados and the OECS through the Enhancing Resilience to Reduce Vulnerability in the Caribbean (ERC) Project.

This training workshop will be replicated in Barbados on 18 – 22 November 2013 to train tsunami focal point staff and emergency responders in 10 additional countries. In total, 100 local officers and responders will be trained to prepare for and deal with tsunami emergencies through these workshops.

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