UNESCO holds training workshop on the development of standard operating procedures for tsunami warning in Haiti
A training workshop on the compilation of standard operating procedures for tsunami warning and emergency operations was held on 10 and 11 March 2011 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The workshop was attended by more than 80 participants, including representatives of institutions that constitute the tsunami warning chain, namely the Maritime and Navigation Service of Haiti (SEMANAH), the Bureau of Mines and Energy (BME), the Directorate of Civil Protection (DPC) and the National Meteorological Centre (CNM).
Mr Bechir Lamine, UNESCO’s representative in Port-au-Prince, underlined UNESCO’s role as an intersectoral platform between education, culture, science and communication for tsunami hazard mitigation. The Minister of the Interior, Mr Paul Antoine Bien-Aimé, stressed the importance of including tsunamis in the list of disasters likely to strike Haiti, in addition to earthquakes, floods and hurricanes.
“The largest cities in Haiti are on the coast. Besides, Haiti is situated between two subduction zones – one to the north and the other to the south – which could trigger tsunamis,” Mr Bechir Lamine explained. “As tsunamis rarely occur, they are often left out of hazard mitigation programmes. They can, however, seriously affect coastal areas, and prevention must be included in a comprehensive hazard mitigation programme.”
The workshop was conducted by Mr Bernardo Aliaga of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), Lieutenant-colonel Philippe Cova, Chief of the French Antilles Defence Zone, Professor Narcisse Zahibo of the University of the French Antilles and Guyana, Mr Claude Prepétit, a BME engineer, and Mr Marcelin Esterlin, a CNM engineer. The main training topics were earthquake and tsunami knowledge required for tsunami warnings, tsunami hazards in Haiti, the main standard operating procedures for a tsunami warning centre and community-level warnings and response.
The main workshop outcomes were the provision of models and recommendations to be followed in compiling standard operating procedures at the national level. A tabletop exercise was used to test the group’s understanding of standard operating procedures in the event of a tsunami. Furthermore, gaps and weaknesses were identified and will be addressed by the participants nationally with the support of the UNESCO Office in Port-au-Prince. Moreover, it was decided that a campaign would be launched in coordination with the thematic committee of the Directorate of Civil Protection, in order to raise awareness and educate the public.
Representatives of the Permanent Secretariat of Risk and Disaster Management, the Haitian Red Cross, the French Red Cross, the National Observatory for the Environment and Vulnerability, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF), Save the Children and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), departmental hazard and disaster management committees and the press attended the workshop.
This workshop was financed from funds provided by the Swiss Cooperation Office and the Government of the United States of America under the Coastal Hazards Warning Systems Project in Haiti coordinated by the UNESCO Office in Port-au-Prince, the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and Haitian partners.