Wednesday, 29 October 2008 7:44 AM

Pacific Wide Tsunami Drill Set for Today

Solomon Islands will join more than sixty-one other countries around the Pacific Rim as a participant in a mock tsunami scenario during 29 -30 October 2008.

The purpose of this Pacific-wide exercise is to increase preparedness, evaluate response capabilities in each country and improve coordination throughout the region.
"The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami brought to the attention of the world the urgent need to be more prepared for such events," said National Disaster Management Office Director Loti Yates.

"This important exercise will test the current procedures of the Pacific Tsunami Warning System and help identify operational strengths and weaknesses in each country."

The exercise, titled Exercise Pacific Wave 08, EPW08, will simulate Pacific countries being put into a Tsunami Warning situation requiring government decision-making. It is the second such exercise with the first having been carried out in May 2006. The role-playing of the exercise will be taken to the step just prior to public notification.

The exercise will be divided into two stages. In the first stage, a destructive tsunami crossing the Pacific from an earthquake near Japan will be simulated by international notifications from Japan's Northwest Pacific Tsunami Advisory Centre, NWPTAC, the U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre, PTWC, and the U.S. West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning, WC/ATWC. Bulletins will be transmitted from these tsunami warning centers to focal points designated by each country that are responsible for that country's tsunami response.

In the second stage, conducted simultaneously in response to receipt of the international messages and any national tsunami detection, analysis, and forecasting capabilities, government officials will simulate decision-making and alerting procedures down to the last step before public notification. Notification of emergency management and responsible authorities for a single coastal community will be used as a measure of the end-to-end process of the entire country for purposes of this exercise. Due care will be taken to ensure the public is not inadvertently alarmed.

In Solomon Islands the agencies to involve in the exercise include Police, Mines and Energy, Meteorology, NGOs, the media, Police, Telekom, PFNet, National Referral hospital, Provinces and the public.

Solomon Islands were also involved in a similar exercise in 2006 and experienced a major tsunami in the Western and Choiseul Provinces, April last year.
"In the last 80 years, Solomon Islands had 19 tsunami events most of which were small. From records produced by the seismological division of Mines and Energy, this means about one tsunami after every four years," said Mr. Yates.

Should any actual tsunami threat occur during the time period of the exercise, 28 - 30 October 2008, the drill will be terminated. Following the exercise, a review and evaluation will be conducted by all participants. "We see this exercise as an essential element in the routine maintenance of the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System," said Mr. Yates. "Our goal is to ensure a timely and effective early warning of tsunamis, educate communities at risk about safety preparedness, and improve our overall coordination. We will evaluate what works well, where improvements are needed, make necessary changes, and continue to practice," he added.

The exercise is in the Work Plan of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group of the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System, ICG/PTWS. ICG/PTWS is a body of the UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

SOURCE: Press Release