Providenciales, TCI, November 2, 2016 – In December 2015, the United Nations General Assembly designated Saturday 5th November 2016, as World Tsunami Awareness Day. The date for the annual celebration was chosen in honour of the Japanese story of “Inamura-no-hi”, meaning the “burning of the rice sheaves”. During an 1854 earthquake a farmer saw the tide receding, a sign of a looming tsunami. He set fire to his entire harvest to warn villagers, who fled to high ground. Afterwards, he built an embankment and planted trees as a buffer against future waves.
The UN General Assembly has called on all countries, international bodies and civil society to observe the day, in order to raise tsunami awareness and share innovative approaches to risk reduction.
The debut World Tsunami Awareness Day focuses on education and evacuation drills. For the pass five (5) years here in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) the Department of Disaster Management and Emergencies has embarked on raising Tsunami Awareness by working with the public and private schools here in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Some of the key activities undertaken in the past to promote awareness include:
- Observance of annual Earthquake and Tsunami Awareness Week in January
- Tsunami evacuation drills were held with a number of the schools
- In March 2013 on the Island of Grand Turk, a full scale Tsunami Drill was carryout where all public and private school participate in getting to the highest points on the island by foot as part of the Caribe Wave activity for that year. The Enid Capron and Ianthe Pratt Primary Schools also participated in evacuation drill in 2011 & 2015.
- Participation in the regional annual Caribe Wave Tsunami Exercise which focuses on the different aspects of protocol of tsunami awareness.
- Communication tests, tabletop/functional exercises and evacuation drills have formed part of this event in the past.
- Production of educational materials – PSAs, brochures, newsletters
- Drafting of a National Tsunami Response Plan and Standard Operating Procedures.
In recognition of the day DDME will be doing the following awareness activities:
- Informative interviews on Tsunami Awareness
- Appearing on Expression – 2nd November 2016
- PSAs via Radio Turks and Caicos and other Radio Stations
We cannot forget the Indian Ocean Tsunami which occurred on 26th December 2004, that claimed the highest number of fatalities of residents and tourist alike and was one of the ten worst of all time recorded disasters. Additionally, recently following the Haiti Earthquake January 2010, the Turks and Caicos Islands were placed under a tsunami watch. In light of this we can no longer afford to focus on just hurricanes and flooding but need to look at other hazards that give very little to no warning but their impact is far more dangerous and deadly.
Going forward as part of DDME Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy, it will continue to work with its partners both public and private to increase tsunami awareness and resilience in the TCI through:
- Updating and testing of National Tsunami Plan
- Achieving international accreditation as a country that is ‘Tsunami Ready’ from the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) for Tsunamis and other Coastal Hazards.
- Erecting of Tsunami Evacuation Routes
- Production of Evacuation Maps
- Establishing of an Early Warning System
Tsunamis are rare but deadly. Early warning saves lives. Know what to do and where to go #TsunamiDay2016 #LiveToTell