Emergency Response officials participate in training
August 20, 2009

The National Emergency Management Organization is hosting a two day training session focusing on causes and effects of Earthquakes and Tsunamis. The sessions started yesterday with a presentation that focused on strong ground motion and seismic hazard estimation. Facilitator and Education Officer at the Seismic Research Centre at the University of the West Indies, Stacy Edwards, tell us more.

Stacy Edwards: Education Officer, Seismic Research Centre UWI
“We are here for two days. We were here yesterday and today we will be ending. Yesterday we spoke primarily on what is needed to monitor earthquakes here in Belize. I was accompanied by my colleague Doctor Walter Salazar who is an earthquake engineer at the seismic research centre. He spoke at length about what is needed here in Belize in terms of the seismic monitoring network. This is so that we can monitor the earthquake in terms of the size, location and depth. A strong motion network would also be required for understanding how the ground behaves during an earthquake in certain areas in Belize. That information will then be used by engineers to decide where to building and where not to build and what types of buildings can be built.”

The Seismic Research Centre, which is based in Trinidad at UWI’s St. Augustine Campus, monitors earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis for the English speaking eastern Caribbean.

Stacy Edwards: Education Officer, Seismic Research Centre UWI
“In the Eastern Caribbean we record maybe about twelve hundred earthquakes each year; of course not all of those earthquakes are felt but many of them are felt. Today we will be focusing public awareness and education and awareness. I will be giving information to NEMO’s partners, including the District Coordinators as well as other people that NEMO works with, on how to communicate effectively and what kinds of strategies are useful for giving the public information on earthquakes and tsunamis. This is very challenging because earthquakes and tsunamis do not occur very often, particularly here in Belize. Prior to the event felt in May the last felt event was in 1976 so Belizeans are not used to feeling earthquakes so it is very difficult to maintain that level of awareness for an even that people do not feel very often. It is important to remind Belizeans that although they do not feel earthquakes very often they do lie in an area that is seismically active and earthquakes can occur.”

Edwards says that one of the recommendations that will be given to NEMO is to use the May 28 event as a window of opportunity to do some earthquake awareness programming and build and anniversary around it so that Belizeans do no become complacent.

Stacy Edwards: Education Officer, Seismic Research Centre UWI
“The fact that you have had an earthquake over magnitude seven recently means that you will have it again and perhaps larger and so for that reason Belizeans should take earthquakes very seriously. They should know what to do during an earthquake and they should practice that very regularly with their families at home, at school and at the workplace. There is a lot of information available on earthquakes and earthquake safety on our website. If you Google Caribbean earthquakes you will get the UWI Seismic website.”

Participants in the training include the Ministry of Health, Red Cross, Ministry of Works and Ministry of National Resources and the Environment, UNDP and NEMO District Emergency Coordinators. According to Edwards the team will prepare a report on their presentations her in Belize which will be used by NEMO to prepare a pamphlet about earthquake and tsunami safety.

Live and let live