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HomeNewsArchivesEducation Department Steps Up Tsunami Preparedness Efforts

Education Department Steps Up Tsunami Preparedness Efforts

September is National Preparedness Month and, in an effort to get schools and students more aware of what to do when disaster strikes, the local Education Department is working on finalizing tsunami evacuation plans for 10 territorial schools.

The schools – including Pearl B. Larsen Elementary and Arthur Richards Junior High on St. Croix, along with both St. Thomas-St. John middle/junior high schools – are located in low-lying areas that would be most directly impacted if a tsunami hits.

According to Education officials, CDR Maguire has been contracted to finalize the school plans, which includes laying out the evacuation routes and creating evacuation procedures or guidelines in the event of an emergency.

Drills have also been held over the last month at many public schools. The contract also involves putting together guidelines for schools that double as evacuation shelters, according to the department.

Work on the plans started Sept. 16 and is hoped to wrap up by November, according to Stacy George, project manager for the department’s architectural and engineering divison.

“We want to be able to say that we are actually prepared in the event of an emergency such as this,” George said. “We want to also be able to use the project as a model for other disasters and how we should respond in an effort to keep our students and our schools as safe as possible.”

In May, the Virgin Islands was been designated as tsunami ready by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Tsunami ready status is conferred by NOAA after a 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 for instant alerts, and enhancing tsunami education outreach and training programs.

In June, a host of local and federal emergency response agencies also publicly unveiled tsunami maps that indicate safety zones, possible assembly points and guided evacuation routes for each island.

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