On November 5, 2019, World Tsunami Awareness Day will be observed globally.
The Ministry of National Security, Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) will commemorate the day across Trinidad and Tobago. Tsunamis while rare for Trinidad and Tobago, remain a hazard for which all citizens and businesses must be prepared at all times.
Ensuring that you know what to do before, during and after a tsunami can reduce you and your family's chances of injury and allow for a quick recovery.
What do we know about tsunamis?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has defined a tsunami as a series of waves caused by an earthquake, undersea volcanic eruption or submarine landslide. Waves emanating from a tsunami can reach as high as 100 feet, destroying coastlines and inundating coastal communities leading to death, as well as, economic and ecological losses. According to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), in the past 100 years, more than 260,000 people have perished in 58 separate tsunamis events.
Communities residing on the coast or in low line areas can experience these waves with little or no warning, and within minutes of a powerful earthquake. Similar to earthquakes, tsunamis can occur at any time, day or night. As such, it is important for everyone to know what to do in the event of a tsunami and how they can stay safe.
How can we prepare?
•Learn and Practice the Drop Cover Hold (DCH) technique to protect yourself during an Earthquake.
•Learn the warning signs of a tsunami and ensure that family members can identify these signs as well.
•Ensure that you have emergency supplies in a grab and go bag that is easy to carry and always at hand. Emergency supplies would include a sturdy pair of shoes, food, water, medication (where necessary), flashlight, whistle, hygiene items and a change of clothing.
•You and your family should be aware of the Tsunami evacuation routes if you live in a coastal area.
•Practice regularly your evacuation plan and map the routes out of your home, school and place of work. Ensure that you add to your plan, evacuation shelters that are above sea level or at least one mile inland.
•Create a family communication plan so that if separated from your family during a tsunami everyone knows what to do and how to communicate. Ensure that you choose a safe place for reunification that's inland. You can download and fill out a family communication plan here http://www.odpm.gov.tt/familycommunication
•Carry a family photo with you at all times to assist first responders in locating your loved ones.
What should you do to protect yourself and stay safe?
The ability to provide early warning notification for a tsunami is dependent on where the Tsunami originates. If it is a local tsunami, the likelihood of receiving early warning notification becomes slim as waves can start impacting coastal and low line areas in under 20 minutes. In light of this, it becomes important for everyone to know what to do in the event of a tsunami.
If you feel an earthquake, your first action should be to Drop, Cover and Hold on (DCH) to protect yourself from possible injury. If you are at the beach, along the coast or in a low line area during an earthquake, DCH and as soon as the shaking stops and get to higher ground, at least 100 meters above sea level.
Warning signs of an impending tsunami includes:
•A rapid fall in sea levels that exposes the sea bed or seafloor.
•A loud roar coming from the ocean; tsunami survivors have described this as the sound of an oncoming freight train.
•Animals acting strangely.
At the onset of any of these signs, evacuate immediately and get as far inland as possible or to higher ground. Do not wait. Ensure that you know your tsunami evacuation routes.
Signage and evacuation routes for tsunamis are established by the Disaster Management Units in Municipal Corporations where tsunamis are a known risk to the community. Evacuation routes are often marked by a wave with an arrow in the direction of higher ground.
If you are in a boat, face the direction of the waves and head further out to sea. If you are in the harbour, then move inland as quickly as possible.
If you are outside of the tsunami zone and receive a warning or alert, then stay where you are unless officials tell you otherwise.
Stay safe after the tsunami: The aftermath of a tsunami can be devastating as such pay attention to local alerts and information from authorised agencies such as the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) for information on impacted areas and shelter locations. The waters that remain after a tsunami can contain hazardous debris or might be hiding the true depth of the water. Thus, avoid walking through these waters to prevent further injuries.
As with any water damage or flooding, electrocution becomes another notable hazard due to downed power lines or damaged underground electrical lines. Avoid touching electrical equipment if it is wet or if you are standing in water. Use text messages to communicate with family members to let them know that you are safe. During emergencies, telephone lines may be down, or networks can become busy due to increased traffic. Text messages use less data and are easier to pass through on a busy network. The lines should remain open and free for first responders to locate and assist persons in need.
Public Information, Education & Community Outreach Unit
Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management
For more information on tsunamis, visit www.odpm.gov.tt