BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — Caribbean countries will be automatically alerted in the event of any major differences in sea level rise or major displacements due to earthquakes.
Speaking at the launch of launch of Caribe Wave 2013, acting director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU), Dr Lorna Inniss, said the system was important given the fact that tsunamis were waves that travelled between and among countries.
"Therefore, there needs to be regional cooperation which we already have. We have established an inter-governmental coordination group for the wider Caribbean region, and we have about 34 countries that participate. All the countries that border the Caribbean Sea are a part of that system," she said.
She said that once a warning was received from the Regional Warning Centre, it would be fed to the focal point of each country automatically, adding that another feature of the system is that of hazard assessment, which involved understanding the hazard itself.
"You know about Kick 'em Jenny, (underwater volcano in Grenada) but what do you (really) know about Kick 'em Jenny? People keep asking 'is it dangerous or is it not?' This is the science. It is only the scientists who can tell us that," she said.
She said that the ongoing Coastal Risk Assessment and Management Programme being implemented by the CZMU was expected to conduct the modelling and science for all sea level-related hazards.
"At the end of this project we should have a series of hazard maps that the community can take and say 'this is my community and in a scenario like this, this is how far inland I need to go'," Inniss said, noting however that while detection was important, developing the appropriate warning systems was just as critical to the process.
She said that determining how the message would be sent to those who were blind, deaf or disabled had to be taken into consideration especially within limited time frames.
"The faster we are able to get that warning out to the communities the better. A national notification is one of the elements that the Department of Emergency Management is working with the Telecoms Unit, and others, to develop right now. That notification system will have a number of elements to it," she pointed out.
The CZMU acting director said the final component to the warning system was that of public awareness and education, especially in the context that equipment could fail. She explained that if such an eventuality failed, then persons should have been properly educated to listen for the signs in order to save themselves and someone else.
"The warning from the Warning Centre to the Met Service is important. But, I view just as important, every single member of the population and our visiting community, knowing exactly what to do when they feel, or hear or see something that is unusual in relation to the coastline. So, that is what we call an end-to-end tsunami and coastal hazards warning system," she added.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Director of the Department of Emergency Management Kerry Hinds said that scientists will play a critical role in evacuation planning in the event of a tsunami or other disasters.
"The inputs to the whole evacuation planning process are the science in terms of alienating where the hazard zones are versus the safe zones. That is the first part of the process.
"If we are going to evacuate an area you have to know where you are evacuating to; that is why the scientists are very important to this aspect of evacuation planning because it has to be based on scientific data," she added.