August 23, 2022 – The Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA), on Tuesday, August 23rd, hosted Governor Albert Bryan Jr. and the leadership of federal and local agencies for a celebratory program and ribbon-cutting ceremony to recognize the erection of the 44th and final tsunami warning tower at the DC Canegata Recreation Center and sports grounds on St Croix.
VITEMA Director Daryl Jaschen led off the program by announcing to Governor Bryan and those in attendance that he was proud to declare that the construction phase of all towers territory-wide had been completed. “As of today, all the warning sirens that once dotted the territory’s landscape prior to their destruction in the wake of two Category 5 hurricanes in 2017 have been replaced.”
While the old system used wooden utility poles, the new sirens will sit atop galvanized steel poles that will better withstand natural disasters. The completed towers stand 60 feet high and are equipped with radio antennas that receive emergency signals to activate the sirens. The height and selected locations best position the sirens to warn persons of any tsunami threat along the over 1500 miles (about 2414.02 km) of territorial shoreline.
Additionally, the system is being modernized for compatibility with the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), our nation’s alert and warning infrastructure. This integration will boost the systems’ capabilities to notify and alert the public of many other potentially catastrophic events, including hurricanes, earthquakes, and other weather-related traumas.
There are nineteen towers on St Thomas, seventeen towers on St Croix, seven on St. John and one on Water Island. Director Jaschen stated that “testing of the sirens will take place between August and October with the goal to be completed in time for VITEMA’s “Great Shake Out” earthquake awareness outreach week.
”Director Jaschen directed praise on those privately owned sites that agreed to have tsunami towers erected on their properties. They include Bolongo Bay Resort, the West Indian Company Ltd and the Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas, the National Park Service on St John, and the Divi Bay and Casino, Southgate Baptist church and Cane Bay on St Croix. Also recognized was VITEMA’s partnership with the VI Department of Education for their partnership in helping to develop and prepare planning for schools situated in low-lying geographic areas.
Director Adrienne Williams-Octalien from the Office of Disaster Recovery took the opportunity to recognize her dedicated staff who were in attendance. “Resiliency is not only in our infrastructure, it is the resiliency of the people we invest in, that makes our islands a better place to live,” stated Williams-Octalien.
She continued to explain further the funding components utilized in the project, referencing section 428 of the Robert T. Stafford Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. The Tsunami Early Warning System is the first 428 project to be obligated in the USVI.
The dedication ceremony featured retired UVI (University of the Virgin Islands), Professor Roy Watlington as its guest speaker. Watlington is a noted expert and author in the field of tsunamis. He currently serves as the USVI science representative to the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation program and a member of its coordinating staff. In his remarks, he spoke of his gratitude to the agencies and persons responsible for making the resources possible to receive the funding for the preparedness assets that included the new tsunami sirens. Professor Watlington specifically praised the leadership and staff of VITEMA for their hard work and considerable effort in recruiting the necessary funding.
Prior to the official ribbon-cutting ceremony, the program was concluded with closing remarks by Governor Bryan. “We are moving forward on so many projects, we have to take the time to celebrate the win, and today is a big win.” He also took the opportunity to praise VITEMA as one of the best emergency response departments in the country, referring to the planning and execution of the territory’s response to COVID-19, the success of organizing the various public vaccination projects, and the follow-through in seeing the tsunami restoration project to its successful
For additional emergency preparedness information, please go to www.vitema.vi.gov, Email [email protected] or call us at VITEMA – St. Croix – 340-773-2244 – St. John – 340-776-2244 – St. Thomas – 340-774-2244 – Be Prepared, Stay Informed, and Be Vigilant!