The V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency has received a $42,000 grant to begin work on tsunami preparedness in the Virgin Islands.
The grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was announced over the weekend by Gov. John deJongh Jr.
To assist in coordinating the technical and scientific aspects of tsunami preparedness, VITEMA has hired retired professor and oceanographer Roy Watlington as a consultant, according to VITEMA Director Mark A. Walters. Watlington will assist VITEMA in organizing and convening the core membership of the U.S. Virgin Islands National/State Working Group for tsunami preparedness.
“This award by NOAA will allow the Virgin Islands to enhance its response to the threat of tsunamis," Walters said. "While much of our attention is now focused on hurricanes, we also realize that we are in an active seismic zone, which may generate tsunamis such as the one in 1867.”
The tsunami-preparedness program will result in a level of territory-wide tsunami awareness that will match the preparedness status of other advanced U.S. communities. Once the program is fully developed, evacuation plans will be published and evacuation routes will be publicized. General tsunami information brochures will be published and distributed to schools, community leaders, staffs of agencies with emergency functions and community centers in at-risk areas.
The three at-risk coastal communities in the Virgin Islands will be proposed to the National Weather Service for recognition as a “tsunami-ready” area, which will mean completion of inundation modeling and mapping, identification and publicizing of evacuation routes, installation of signs and a program of staff training and public education about tsunami risk and response in the selected areas.
“This project will enable the territory, under the leadership of VITEMA, to provide preparedness and mitigation activities, as will as to integrate tsunami response with emergency-response plans," deJongh said. "The direction for VITEMA as a response-coordinating agency, which has been charted by Director Mark A. Walters and supported by the Office of the Governor, is inclusive of not only hurricanes but all natural disasters, including earthquake and tsunamis.”