DRDM conducts tsunami exercise |14 October 2020
Since the tsunami hit the Indian Ocean in December 2004, all countries of this region join together every two years to conduct the Indian Ocean-wide tsunami exercises (IOWave).
This exercise is to prepare themselves for an eventual tsunami alert.
A functional exercise was conducted yesterday at the headquarters of the Department of Risk and Disaster Management (DRDM) and this will be followed by another training on October 20.
Vicky Belle, senior disaster management officer, explained to the media the purpose of this exercise: “We follow a standard operating procedure (SOP) that we set up and that guides us when there is a tsunami. This kind of exercise allows us to test if our SOPs are working and if they are correct. We also review our plan as many things have been added on our coasts and the impact might be different. We have to make sure that all stakeholders are aware of the dangers and how to prepare for it.”
How does it work? “The three centres in the Indian Ocean – India, Indonesia and Australia – send messages to all tsunami centres in the Indian Ocean. They send the messages to the Seychelles Meteorological Agency which then forwards these to DRDM. Then we immediately inform our firsthand responders. This year we are doing this exercise on a lower scale and we asked a few other institutions – Eden Island Village Management Association and Eden Island Village company, Indian Ocean Tuna Limited (Thai Union), Public Utilities Corporation, Seychelles Fisheries Authority and Seychelles Maritime Academy – who conducted this exercise. Another table top exercise will take place on October 20, 2020. We were given three days to participate in this exercise and we chose two days.”
Ms Belle said that DRDM is currently participating in many national endeavours and with the time constraint and the amount of time that they had to prepare, they decided to have two trainings.
Is this training enough to prepare ourselves for a potential tsunami? Ms Belle explained that no matter how many trainings we get, each event that comes, brings its own challenges.
“We currently have a system of alert and we need to educate the mass to understand the situation. With Covid-19, we were advised not to bring a big group of people together but we know that many organisations are going through a tough patch. But a disaster can come at any moment and each organisation should be prepared for such an eventuality,” she said.
Regular exercises are important for maintaining staff readiness for the real event. This is especially true for tsunamis, which are infrequent but require rapid response when they occur. Indian Ocean-wide tsunami exercises (IOWave) are effective tools for evaluating the readiness of the end-to-end Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigations System (IOTWMS) and for identifying changes that can improve its effectiveness.The pre-exercise planning and post-exercise evaluation process is as important as the actual exercise, because it brings together all stakeholders to closely coordinate their actions. Every Indian Ocean country is encouraged to participate.
To recall the tsunami in 2004 resulted in the loss of 230,000 lives and the displacement of over 1.6 million people around the Indian Ocean with estimated economic losses of USD 14 billion. The catastrophe brought renewed focus on the need for a regional tsunami warning system in the Indian Ocean.