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Caribbean on target for tsunami-readiness

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Bridgetown, Barbados, August 11, 2009 (CDERA): The first phase of a region-wide tsunami warning system is being finalised on Wednesday August 12, when technical experts meet at the offices of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA) to assess and put the final touches to tsunami warning protocols for Barbados, Jamaica, Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda.

These four countries are among the first CDERA Participating States to complete protocols and standard operating procedures (SOPS) that will enable emergency responders to receive, interpret and issue messages to warn at-risk populations about tsunamis. Regional experts have been meeting since April 2009, through broad in-country stakeholder consultations to modify model protocols for their local environments. A guide that will assist disaster managers in other Participating States to d their own tsunami protocols is also being produced. These are products are being created under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded Tsunami and Other Coastal Systems Warning (TCHWS) project being implemented by CDERA.

The protocols come almost five years after the deadly 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which killed close to 300,000 people across 8 countries. In highlighting the significance of the project's achievement, CDERA's Coordinator Jeremy Collymore noted that the 2004 event influenced the Agency's 2007 decision to 'improve the region's capacity for dealing with fast onset hazards".

Consultant Kathleen Imhoff, a Principal in Alerting Solutions Inc, has praised the initiative noting: "The entire region is to be complimented for taking the tsunami risk issue head-on. Many Tsunami Warning projects came after a disaster; here it results from responsibility to the community's safety".

The TCHWS project also includes an awareness campaign which is due to roll out this September in selected pilot states. The public awareness component includes the development of a website to provide information on the coastal hazards to regional populace and support the distribution of the products produced under the project. A teacher education component with multi-media educational material and a module aimed at the general population are also among the products being developed.

"The TCHWS project also demonstrates the benefits of using local expertise to transfer technology in the training of home grown risk-management professionals," Collymore said.

The protocols and SOPS are the foundation on which countries are expected to build their preparedness mechanism through publicizing, exercising and information sharing to ensure that the general public is aware and can make decisions to ensure their safety in the event of a tsunami hazard.

The TCHWS project is funded to the tune of US$475,200 and supports efforts to develop a tsunami warning centre for the Caribbean by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNECSO through the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions(ICGCARIBE).

A series of regional and national workshops have been held to familiarise regional authorities with the protocols and standard operating procedures and to draft and test the individual country protocols. The country workshops were supported by USAID in association with of the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and the local disaster offices.

For further information contact:

Andria Grosvenor,
Technical Manager, Preparedness and Country Support
Caribbean Disaster Response Agency (CDERA)
Telephone: 1 (246) 425-0386/88
Fax: 1 (246) 425 8854