The 8th session of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Tsunami and Other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (ICG/CARIBE EWS-VIII) was held in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, from 29 April to 1 May 2013, hosted by the Ministry of National Security through the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM). The meeting was attended by 56 participants from 18 Caribbean countries and four observer organizations (United Nations Development Programme - UNDP, Caribbean Disaster Management Agency - CDEMA, Puerto Rico Seismic Network – PRSN and the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Center - SRC). The session recognized the increased regional capabilities for tsunami coordination, alerting and monitoring, bringing it up to 94% of National Contacts and Warning Focal Points having been designated and 85% implementation of the seismic network and 44% of the sea level network plans. The newly established Caribbean Tsunami Information Center (CTIC), hosted by the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) of the Government of Barbados was tasked with holding at least two Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) trainings during 2013. The Member States urged again the US to continue with its phased approach towards the establishment of a Caribbean Tsunami Warning Center in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. The evaluation of the CARIBE WAVE 13 exercise demonstrated the usefulness of these exercises and the interest of Member States in further testing the Enhanced PTWC products for the region. As a consequence, the plenary decided to hold annual CARIBE WAVE exercises to regularly test tsunami preparedness in the Caribbean, with the next one being coordinated for March 26, 2014. The IX Session is to be hosted by the Government of the US Virgin Islands on the island of St. Thomas in May, 2014.
The Directorate General of Meteorology and Air Navigation/Public Authority for Civil Aviation (DGMAN/PACA) of Oman has installed seven new sea level stations along the coast of the Sultanate with the assistance of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO). The stations are functional and providing data streams through the IOC-UNESCO Sea Level Station Monitoring Facility via GTS (Global Telecommunication System), a monitoring service for real time sea level measuring stations.
IOC-UNESCO has been closely working with the Sultanate of Oman, providing technical support and guidance to assist in the design and establishment of its own National Multi Hazard Early Warning System (NMHEWS) including for tsunami and other sea-level related hazards. The new sea level stations and the national early warning system will serve to strengthen the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (IOTWS) by providing a much more complete coverage of the North Western Indian Ocean including Oman Sea.
This highly successful training with +23 participants from all 4 South American East Coast Spanish speaking countries (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile), with funding support shared by UNESCO, USAID/OFDA, and NOAA, was hosted by the Chilean Navy’s Oceanographic and Hydrographic Service (SHOA), on 4 - 8 March 2013, in Valparaiso, Chile. This training is part of the work plan of the ICG/PTWS in view of the soon to start issuance of Enhanced PTWC Products. The ICG/PTWS tasked IOC and ITIC to develop trainings dedicated to SOP and Enhanced PTWC Products to make sure both Tsunami Warning Centers (TWCs) and Tsunami Emergency Responders (TER) at national level are prepared to understand and use the new products in the framework of their SOPs.
This year, the Ministry of Education of Chile will reproduce 3,000 copies of the above-mentioned modules for distribution in educational institutions in the country’s coastal areas. Similarly, the Chilean Red Cross and UNESCO will print a further 3,000 copies of these educational texts and will implement the project strategy in schools, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education and the National Emergency Office (ONEMI).
UNESCO is currently implementing the project “Strengthening the Regional Tsunami Early Warning System – preparations in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru”, under the DIPECHO VII Action Plan for South America, which provides follow-up and continuity to the DIPECHO VI Project and completes a phase of 36 months of support for tsunami preparedness in the above-mentioned four countries. These projects are implemented through the UNESCO Office in Santiago de Chile and the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).
Twenty-three countries of the Indian Ocean rim participated successfully in an ocean-wide tsunami exercise on 12 October. At the same time the new regional advisory service provided by the Regional Tsunami Service Providers (RTSPs) of Australia, India and Indonesia became operational, ushering in a new era of regional cooperation for tsunami warning in the Indian Ocean.
The commencement of the RTSPs service in the Indian Ocean marks a significant milestone for the IOTWS and represents the culmination of six years of development and preparation since the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the IOTWS decided to develop its own regional tsunami warning capability in December 2005.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova marked the transition of responsibility for the tsunami warning system with a video address to the new RTSPs. “All this shows what can be done when States and societies join together to reach common goals,” said Irina Bokova. “This is a major step to protecting the lives and livelihoods of all coastal communities in the Indian Ocean.”
Exercise IOWave 11 re-enacted the 26 December 2004 great earthquake event, with a simulated 9.2 magnitude earthquake off the North West coast of Sumatra (Indonesia), followed by an ocean-wide tsunami. The new RTSPs of Australia, India and Indonesia together with the Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System (RIMES) and the Interim Advisory Service providers, Japan Meteorological agency (JMA) and Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) between them issued a total of 82 bulletins to the National Tsunami Warning Centres (NTWCs) of the 23 participating countries.
Preliminary results indicate that all the participating NTWCs were able to receive timely messages from the RTSPs. Most countries conducted national exercises involving key emergency response agencies, with many conducting tabletop or functional exercises to test their tsunami warning and emergency response Standard Operating Procedures. Four countries (India, Kenya, Malaysia and Mauritius) reported conducting evacuation drills at coastal communities. In India, drills were conducted at 17 coastal villages in 3 provinces. All countries considered the exercise to be successful although several minor problems have been identified which will require corrective action.
Overall, Exercise IOWave 11 achieved its goal of evaluating the state of readiness of Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System, its operational RTSPs, the NTWCs and National Disaster Management Organizations, in responding to a potentially destructive tsunami. The exercise has provided an opportunity for Indian Ocean countries to test their operational lines of communications, and to review their tsunami warning and emergency response Standard Operating Procedures. A full evaluation of the exercise will now be conducted and a report will be published by the end of November 2011.
The Indonesian coast, between Banda Aceh and Meulaboh, after the earthquake and the tsunami of 26 December 2004. Photo by Evan Schneider © UN Photo
UNESCO supports Member States in improving capabilities for tsunami risk assessment, implementing early warning systems and enhancing preparedness of communities at risk. UNESCO works closely with national institutions and promotes inter-institutional and regional cooperation. Specialized regional centers provide tsunami information that, together with national analysis, is the basis of the warnings issued for the public. In addition, UNESCO promotes community-based approaches in the development of response plans and awareness campaigns which strongly involve education institutions and end-users.