The Department of Disaster Management and Emergencies (DDME) will observe Earthquake Awareness Week for the sixth year, from January 8th - 14th, 2016. The intention is to sensitize residents and visitors to ensure they can effectively respond to an earthquake event. In addition, the DDME aims to strengthen the Earthquake Preparedness and Response Capacity of the Disaster Management System, by building resilience to earthquake impacts at the National and Community Level. The overall goal is to have the TCI more resilient to earthquake impacts by implementing the necessary safeguards save lives and protect property.
Dr. Virginia Clerveaux, Director DDME, reporting on the DDME’s progress to date stated that “at the National Level, the DDME has drafted a National Earthquake Contingency Plan 2017, which is based on the CDEMA Regional Earthquake Contingency Model.” This Plan informs Responder Agencies regarding the actions that should be taken before, during and after an earthquake event, In fact, the Plan will be tested through a Table-top Exercise, scheduled for January 12th, 2017, prior to finalizing and submitting for Cabinet Approval. At the Community Level, DDME will continue to engage educational institutions, through drills and exercises and the general public by disseminating public information via print, radio, television and social media”.
Specifically, several activities have been planned to commemorate the Week, which include:
1. January 8th Church Service – 10:00am, at Rock of Jesus Ministry – Bishop Bryant Cox, Five Cays, Providenciales.
2. January 9th – Communication Tests (Email, Text, Telephone, Satellite Phone, Radio, Whatsapp etc.) & Media Interviews
3. January 10th - Earthquake Drills in South Caicos at various schools
4. January 11th - Earthquake Drills in North Caicos at various schools
5. January 12th –Earthquake Table-top Exercise with Multi-Stakeholder Agencies & Media Interviews
6. January 13th –Hazard Hunt in Various Schools in Providenciales
7. Distribution of Brochures and Pamphlets
8. Publication of DDME Quarterly Newsletter
9. The DDME will also be featured on Radio Turks and Caicos during the week of January 8th 2017 during one of its programmes.
As we observe the Week, it is important to reflect on the victims of the devastating earthquake, which struck Haiti on January 12th, 2010. With a magnitude of 7.0 and a depth of 13km, the earthquake event resulted in approximately 220,000 deaths and severe damages to an estimated 250,000 residential buildings and 30,000 commercial buildings. Following the devastating earthquake, at least 52 aftershocks, measuring 4.5 in magnitude shook the country, some of which were felt in Grand Turk, Salt Cay, South Caicos and Providenciales. According to the Preliminary Damage and Needs Assessment (PDNA) published by the Haitian Government in March 2010, the cost of the damage was at an estimated US$7.9bn, with the reconstruction cost at US11.5bn.
As Haiti and the rest of the world commemorate the seventh anniversary of that fateful day in Haiti’s history, it is fitting that the TCI pause to reflect, share expertise and pledge to do what is possible to ensure that all persons in the TCI are as prepared and ready in the event that the country was to experience a similar event.
The question that must be asked whether “it will happen?” rather than “when will it happen?” To answer the latter, it is important to consider TCI’s vulnerability to earthquakes and related hazards. Taking into consideration the geographical location of the TCI, the Puerto Rico Trench (an active plate boundary between North American and Caribbean Plates), an active plate boundary, makes TCI vulnerable as it is located approximately 150 kilometers to the north of the Trench. Moreover, the Caribbean is a very active seismic region. Home to three live volcanoes, over a thousand earthquakes happen annually, although the magnitude of many are too small to feel. This region has experienced major earthquake events which has triggered several tsunamis; the most notable being Haiti in 2010. In fact, the area between the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands average more than a dozen measurable earthquakes every week.
According to the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility Country Risk Profile for the TCI, the islands are vulnerable to earthquake and tsunami risks, but at a low to moderate level. Earthquakes cannot be predicted with any level of accuracy and we cannot prevent them from occurring. However, we can be prepared to respond to an earthquake event whether it be in the TCI or abroad. This theme of preparedness will be the ethos of the activities planned to mark this year’s sixth annual Earthquake Awareness Week by the DDME. The Department is seeking to raise awareness regarding measures to implement, to ensure that you survive the next earthquake. As minor
preparation can possibly save your life and that of your family, ensure you have a Family Plan to deal with any emergency.
Individual, schools, businesses or community groups interested in learning more about what can be done to become more resilient to earthquake impacts can call the Department’s offices in Grand Turk telephone # 649 946 2177 or Providenciales telephone # 649 946 4521 for more information or to schedule a presentation.
DDME is also encouraging the residents to visit our Facebook and Twitter Page to obtain tips on earthquake preparedness and ways in which you can make yourself, your family and your community more resilient to the impacts of earthquakes.
Telephone #: 649 338 3672