Recinto Universitario de Mayagüez Programa de Alerta y Mitigación Contra Maremotos de Puerto Rico FEMA (Agencia Federal para el Manejo de Emergencias)
(October 2000 to March 2003)
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TASK II. Raising awareness of potentially affected populations: 

For the majority of historical Caribbean tsunamis, which tend to be local and, therefore, will arrive in a few minutes, there is universal agreement within the tsunami and emergency response community that technology alone cannot protect coastal inhabitants in the immediate area of a near-source tsunami. Local population at risk must be able to recognize the signs of impending tsunami hazard such as strong, prolonged ground shaking, and seek higher ground immediately. Communities need to know what areas are likely to be flooded through inundation maps that define the evacuation area and designate evacuation routes and safe regions in which to assemble evacuees.  Planners, emergency responders, and residents need to understand the multi-hazard ramifications of a very large local earthquake that will disrupt much of the community infrastructure. Local decision makers need to understand the nature of the risk and be provided with mitigation tools in order to make reasoned long-term planning decisions. A sustained public outreach program is needed to gain the long-term grass-root support of the coastal populations and to institutionalize tsunami mitigation in an all-hazard approach to risk reduction.  As part of this effort the following activities were conducted. 

  • Nine regional tsunami workshops were held covering each of the coastal regions into which the Puerto Rico State Emergency Management Agency has subdivided the coastal areas of the island.  In each of these meeting, regional and local emergency managers participated as well as representatives from the different entities (schools, hospitals, government buildings, hotels, and industries) located in the areas which could be affected by a tsunami. The hazards associated with tsunamis and protective measures that need to be taken will be presented. 
  • Based on the results of Task 1 tsunami hazard signs were prepared (by Rotulos Reflectivos del Sur, Ponce, P.R.) and, hopefully, installed in exposed locations along coastal regions.  The message of these signs will be to seek higher ground if a strong ground shaking is felt.  Such signs have and are being installed as part of the National Tsunami Program in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii. 
  • Two evacuation exercises were carried out for exposed schools, one in Playa de Naguabo (Faustino R. Fuertes School) and another in Rincón (Jorge Seda Crespo School). 
  • A bilingual WEB site was created to post the results from this study, general tsunami information, results of other Puerto Rico tsunami-related investigations, inundation flood maps, history of Caribbean tsunamis, information on potential tsunamigenic events, and links to other tsunami and Emergency Response-related WEB sites. 
  • A Spanish language tsunami video from the Puerto Rico perspective was produced. This 20 - 30 minute video includes the history, hazards, and protective measures concerning tsunamis. The video was prepared by JAM Media (San Juan, P.R.) and it has been distributed at many schools, and governmental and private agencies. To obtain copies of the video one has to bring two blank videocassettes to the Sea Grant Program office at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus, where they will copy the video to one of the blank videocassettes. 
There was vast participation of the local media, newspaper, radio and television. For all of these activities we can also had the support the of the Puerto Rico State Emergency Management Agency and the Marine Advisory Services of the University of Puerto Rico Sea Grant College Program.  These organizations have already taken a strong leadership in the aspect of tsunami hazard mitigation in the Caribbean through their sponsorship of the Caribbean Tsunami Workshop (1997) and tsunami-related research projects (“Determination of the tsunami hazard for western Puerto Rico from local sources”, A. Mercado and W. McCann; “Estimate of the tsunami hazard in the Greater Antilles from local, earthquake-related tsunami sources", A. Mercado and W. McCann;  “Investigation of the Potential Tsunami Hazard on the North Coast of Puerto Rico due to Submarine Slides Along the Puerto Rico Trench”, A. Mercado, N. Grindlay - Univ.of North Carolina, and P. Liu - Cornell). Sea Grant has also offered support in the preparation of workshops for planners, community organizations, and educators. They have also offered the use of their printing facilities for information and publication materials, including press kits. 

Personnel Involved: 

Prof. Aurelio Mercado – Department of Marine Sciences, RUM/UPR 
Ms. Christa von Hillebrandt – Puerto Rico Seismic Network 
Dr. Havidán Rodríguez – Center for Applied Social Research, RUM/UPR 
Mr. Harry Justiniano – WEB master 
Ms. Maritza Pagan – Adminstrative Assistant

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