Addressing the opening of the ninth session of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Coordinating Group on Tsunamis on Tuesday, Gov. John deJongh Jr. said the Virgin Islands has been designated as tsunami ready by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“We have worked long and hard for this recognition and, as a result of our efforts, the territory is better prepared to save lives from the onslaught of tsunamis through our extensive planning, education and public awareness. It is not a matter of if, but a matter of when” the territory is struck by a tsunami, deJongh said.
According to a news release issued Tuesday by Government House, tsunami ready status is conferred by NOAA after the jurisdiction meets requirements that include establishing an emergency operations center and a 24-hour-warning point to receive tsunami information.
Over the last several years, the Virgin Islands has made significant strides to reach tsunami ready status, including building two modern 911 communications call centers, emergency operations centers, installation of an early warning siren system and tsunami signs, implementing a mass notification system, V.I. Alert, for instant alerts and enhancing tsunami education outreach and training programs.
While no community is tsunami proof, deJongh said, being deemed tsunami ready can help save lives. The recognition is valid for three years through March 2017, according to Government House’s news release.
The governor welcomed more than 50 scientists and emergency managers representing 17 countries and four scientific research organizations that came together to continue the group’s work to develop a Caribbean Tsunami Warning System to prevent loss of life and destruction of property.
“The aim is also to mitigate against catastrophic economic impacts," deJongh said. "The system will provide timely and accurate forecasts and warnings of coastal flooding and associated hazards due to tsunami, storm surge and hurricanes.”
Countries represented at the conference include Barbados, Colombia, Curacao, Dominican Republic, France, Haiti, Mexico, Netherlands, Panama, Saint Lucia, Sint Maarten, the United Kingdom, the United States and Venezuela.
The conference will continue through Thursday.