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Tsunami evacuation sign seen outside the Carenage Health Centre.

Kalain Hosein

[email protected]

Over the past 500 years, more than 75 tsunamis have been observed in the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions.

These represent approximately 7 to10 per cent of the world’s oceanic tsunamis. Earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes can and do occur in tandem with a raging global pandemic. Hence, it is still pertinent that we continue to practice drills and preparedness exercises.

However, what happens when we physically cannot practice a drill because of COVID-19 protocols and now, a State of Emergency?

The Officer of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), as part of their mission and carrying out activities of the National Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Month (NDPPM), has shifted their exercises to the internet.

Yesterday, Muhammad Anwar Baksh, Planning and Development Officer at the ODPM, led a virtual tsunami tabletop exercise for the Carenage community.

Carenage is the only community in T&T that has achieved TsunamiReady status and one of eight in the entire Caribbean.

A TsunamiReady community means that there is sufficient preparedness for tsunamis to minimize the loss of life, livelihoods, and properties based on international benchmarks.

The recognition also indicates a community has adopted mitigation, preparation, and response measures to cope with their tsunami risk.

While the public was not able to be involved in this tabletop exercise due to the pandemic, stakeholders such as the disaster management unit from the Diego Martin Regional Corporation, the T&T Fire Service, disaster shelter managers, and even officials from the Tobago Emergency Management Agency, as well as the media, were involved.

The exercise used a hypothetical magnitude 7.9 earthquake northeast of T&T which generated tsunami waves between one and three meters, affecting all coasts of Tobago, northern, eastern, and coastlines in the Gulf of Paria for Trinidad.

Relevant stakeholders explained their operating procedures, allowing each representative to game out what may occur in the event of a damaging tsunami impact.

These impacts included blocked roads, damaged buildings, recovery of bodies and animal carcasses, and what may happen if evacuation shelters become overwhelmed.