What is the CARIBE WAVE Exercise?
CARIBE WAVE (Caribbean Tsunami Warning Exercise) is a tsunami exercise held annually in the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, under the direction of UNESCO and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC). Since 2016, this exercise has been carried out annually under the name CARIBE WAVE (Caribbean Tsunami Warning Exercise). In Puerto Rico, annual tsunami exercises were held from 2009 to 2013 under the name LANTEX (Large Atlantic Tsunami Exercise); and in 2012, 2014, and 2015 under the name of CARIBE WAVE/LANTEX Joint Exercise (Caribbean and Northwestern Atlantic Tsunami Exercise). Being 2018, the year that marks a decade of tsunami exercises in Puerto Rico, under the leadership of the Puerto Rico Seismic Network, in coordination with the NOAA Tsunami Warning Centers, the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Bureau (PREMB), the National Weather Service-San Juan Forecast Office (NWS-NOAA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Puerto Rico-EAS Committee, and the Puerto Rico Broadcasters Association, among others.
The purpose of the CARIBE WAVE exercise is to improve the effectiveness of the Tsunami Warning System along the Caribbean region. The exercise provides an opportunity for emergency management organizations throughout the region to test their operational lines of communications, review their tsunami response procedures, and promote community-wide tsunami preparedness. Conducting exercises or drills to test the response plans on regular basis is essential to maintain adequate emergency preparedness. This is particularly true for the Caribbean, where tsunamis are rare but can have a very high impact. All emergency management organizations (EMO) are invited to participate in this exercise.
The objectives of the CARIBE WAVE Exercise are to test and evaluate the operations of the Caribbean Tsunami Warning System (Caribe EWS), to validate preparedness response to tsunamis (among which are testing protocols and communications systems between tsunami warning centers and the tsunami warning focal points), and the use of the PTWC (Pacific Tsunami Warning Center) tsunami products for the Caribbean, as well as assist in tsunami preparedness efforts of the emergency management agencies in the Caribbean.
In Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands Region, this exercise is held under the leadership of the Puerto Rico Seismic Network (PRSN) and has counted on the participation of all emergency agencies within our area of responsibility year after year.
CARIBE WAVE Exercise is developed under the framework of the tsunami program of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for Tsunami and Other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (ICG/CARIBE EWS) of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), US National Weather Service (NWS) and other emergency agencies in the Caribbean Region (such as CEPREDENAC, CDEMA, and EMIZA). The official participant manual for the exercise states that the exercise is being conducted to contribute to tsunami preparedness efforts throughout the Caribbean and adjacent regions. Recent tsunamis, such as those in the Indian Ocean (2004 and 2018), Samoa (2009), Haiti (2010), Japan (2011) and Chile (2010, 2014, and 2015), Honduras and Sulawesi (2018) attest to the importance of tsunami response proper planning. Although most tsunamis are generated by earthquakes, they may also be caused by submarine landslides, volcanic eruptions, or impacts of celestial bodies. According to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) over the last 500 years, at least 83 tsunamis have been observed and over 4,500 people have lost their lives from tsunamis in the Caribbean and adjacent regions. In addition to tsunamis, the region also has a long history of destructive earthquakes. Within the Caribbean region, there are multiple fault segments and submarine features that could be the source of tsunamis generated by earthquakes and landslides. The perimeter of the Caribbean Plate is bordered by no fewer than four major plates (North America, South America, Nazca, and Cocos). Subduction occurs along the eastern and northeastern Atlantic margins of the Caribbean Plate. On the other hand, normal, transform, and strike-slip faulting characterizes northern South America, eastern Central America, the Cayman Ridge, and Trench and the northern plate boundary (Benz et al, 2011).
In addition to the local and regional sources, the region is also threatened by tele-tsunamis or transatlantic tsunamis, such as the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake. Furthermore, five confirmed volcano tsunami source events, two from volcano-generated landslides, one from a mud volcano, and one from a submarine landslide, have affected the Caribbean and adjacent regions. With nearly 160 million people (Caribbean, Central America, and Northern South America) now living in this region and a major earthquake occurring about every 50 years, the question is not if another major tsunami will happen, but when it happens, will the region be prepared for the impact? The risk of major earthquakes and tsunamis in the Caribbean is real and should be taken very seriously.