people walking up a hill
Participants in the Caribe Wave 2019 tsunami drill in the Virgin Islands head uphill. (Photo: ZARRIN TASNIM AHMED)

As part of efforts to prepare the territory for earthquakes and tsunamis, residents are invited to take part in the regional Caribe Wave exercise on March 11, government announced.

Held on the tenth anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Fukushima, Japan, this year’s drill should serve as a reminder of the dangers that come with living in a seismically active region like the Caribbean, said Department of Disaster Management acting Director Jasen Penn.

“Thinking back to the devastation experienced by a highly developed nation like Japan is a reminder that we should do all we can to prepare for the possibility of a major earthquake and tsunami on our shores,” Mr. Penn said. “Having a plan and knowing what to do in those crucial moments can save your life, or the lives of your family members or colleagues.”

DDM’s Training Manager Carishma Hicks said recent earthquakes near Puerto Rico and volcanic eruptions in St. Vincent are also reminders of the territory’s vulnerability.

“Tsunami events may be rare, but they have the potential to cause a lot of harm and they can occur without advance warning,” she said. “We want persons to practise how they would respond to these events so that should the territory experience an impact, we would not waste any time in getting ourselves and our families to safety.”

What to do

Besides mapping out and practising evacuation routes, DDM recommends that residents plan assembly points and put together a small bag of essentials including a first-aid kit, prescription medication, flashlight, important documents, and a battery-operated radio to receive the all-clear message from authorities.

“Annual exercises are a great opportunity for families and businesses to review their emergency preparations,” Ms. Hicks said.

Virgin Islands schools, businesses, community groups and individuals can register at

Participants should consider whether their location is in compliance with Covid-19 safety protocols when deciding whether or not to carry out an evacuation exercise, DDM noted.

Alternatively, they may exercise building safety checks, update their home and family plans, or discuss other aspects of their organisation’s emergency response plan, the department advised.

The drill

Caribe Wave, which has been held each year since 2009, uses historical seismic data to generate a test scenario. Last year’s exercise was based on a 1755 tsunami generated by a magnitude 8.5 earthquake located off the coast of Portugal.

About 74,000 people have registered to participate in Caribe Wave this year.

Besides the VI, participating states include Haiti, Aruba, the United States, Puerto Rico, the USVI, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The exercise is organised by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Geological Survey.