National tsunami drill expected at end of this month

By ANA SOVA 

A National Tsunami Drill will be conducted in Fiji late October to raise levels of preparedness and practical evacuation experience for tsunamis.

Initiated by Government to minimize disaster risks and the potential threats of tsunamis, the National Tsunami Drill will be a national exercise to test warning systems, communication systems, and evacuation plans for all coastal communities in Fiji.

This is an ambitious national undertaking, and the first time an entire Pacific nation has tested its national tsunami preparedness.

Ministry of Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management, Permanent Secretary, Meleti Bainimarama said that given its geographic location and island makeup, Fiji is vulnerable to earthquake and tsunami events that could bring widespread devastation if preparation is neglected.

He said after a local earthquake, a tsunami could reach Fiji in as few as eight minutes, causing massive loss of life, infrastructure and property.

“As a nation, we are not prepared for that possibility,” Bainimarama said.

Planning and exercises for the National Tsunami Drill have been ongoing since early 2017.

Two national communication drills have been held for the Mineral Resources Department, National Disaster Management Office, government ministries, statutory authorities, civil society organisations, and media. A third communication drill for NDMO was again held recently.

Community training packages and Guidelines for SOP development have also been prepared for public educational purposes.

A national tsunami table-top exercise was conducted in late August in Suva as 100 participants discussed details of how to evacuate populations efficiently, leaving no-one behind in an emergency.

Bainimarama said that a prominent awareness and media campaign will also take place to increase understanding of tsunami risks and details of the national drill.

He said There are many questions that we must begin to ask each other and be able to answer for our benefit.

“Is my family, school, or business situated in a safe zone or danger zone? What is the tsunami evacuation plan for my family, school, or workplace? What is my tsunami evacuation route when a warning is given? How can I ensure the elderly in my home and community are safely evacuated?”

He adds while Government and authorities will spearhead and initiate the tsunami drill, all of us in Fiji – businesses, communities, villages, schools, families, the maritime sector, individuals must have a responsibility to take ownership of our evacuation plans and tsunami preparedness.

Bainimarama said the National Tsunami Drill was recently endorsed by Cabinet and that, subject to Cabinet approval, it could take place as early as 27th October, 2017.

Organisations, businesses, communities, schools, villages, families and individuals will need to plan ahead so that they can participate in the national drill.

He said when it comes to a sudden emergency like tsunami, the readiness is everything.

“The lives of thousands of people, your family and community depend on it”.