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Despite Hurricanes, British Virgin Islands Successfully Tests Tsunami Early Warning System

ROAD TOWN, Tortola – Training Officer, at the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) Carishma Hicks said that CARIBE WAVE 18 provided an opportunity for the British Virgin Islands to test its tsunami warning systems, contingency plans, and promote tsunami preparedness.

Hicks said following the passage of Hurricanes Maria and Irma in September 2017, the BVI’s hazard monitoring and warning network was destroyed. She said at the beginning of 2018, the department’s technical staff spent a significant amount of time planning for this exercise and devised a strategy to execute the exercise despite the destruction to the network,

“We were very pleased that repairs to the Russell Hill Siren and the Smart Radio network were completed in time for these elements to be activated to allow schools and other critical organisations to receive the warning messages,” Hicks said.

The BVI has been participating in Caribwave/Lantex since 2009 and the exercise is fully supported by Members of Cabinet. This year’s exercise included some newcomers from the financial sector, banking, supermarkets and insurance companies. Several schools throughout the Territory participated as well as a number of public officers and private sector agencies.

Support from the public sector was overwhelming however the participation from the private sector was less than in previous years. Initial registration indicated that approximately 4,000 persons participated, which is 42 percent less than the 2017 figures.

The exercise also allows the BVI to maintain National Weather Service’s Tsunami Ready certification which was recently renewed in 2017.

Meanwhile, Training Officer Hicks further explained that the department is exploring other options for alerting the public and has reached out to the designers of CodeRED, a mobile alert application that is used in the United States of America, to initiate emergency notifications directly to cellular phones, social media and emails.

“The application was downloaded by a sample group of 70 persons at various locations throughout the territory and the results revealed that over 95 percent of them received a telephone call, email or a graphical notification via the CodeRED mobile app,” Hicks said.

The DDM is in discussions with the owners of CodeRED in an effort to finalise an agreement to allow for the service to continue in the British Virgin Islands. Regional Manager of Onsolve Pete Applegarth , whose company produced the application, arrived in the Territory on March 14th to witness the exercise and to evaluate the performance of the application.

Applegarth explained that he is a regular visitor to the territory and was pleased that the DDM reached out to him to explore the possibility of a partnership. He said, “OnSolve enables government and other clients to send emergency communications and mass notifications to individuals or groups using lists, locations, departments, functions, or other categorization. Our CodeRED notification platform was designed to connect people to the information they need before, during and after emergency and also non-emergency events.”

The DDM is encouraging feedback from participants in the tsunami exercise and has made available a ‘CARIBE WAVE feedback survey’ that individuals can use to provide information which will help the department’s staff to make decisions to better promote, implement and communicate future CARIBE WAVE information and messages. This feedback will also inform general communication decisions.

Persons interested in providing feedback and observations about CARIBE WAVE 18 are asked to complete the survey available on www.bviddm.com and on its Facebook page BVIDDM.

Over 383,074 persons within the Caribbean region were registered to participate in the exercise from Bermuda to Brazil.

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John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy has been reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands since 1989. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan.

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