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Earth Today | Met Service clears the air on tsunami warning

Published:Thursday | January 18, 2018 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor/Contributing Editor

The Meteorological Service of Jamaica has clarified its role in tsunami response following the warning issued for Jamaica last week.

"I am realising that some people are thinking we had a responsibility that we fell down on. We need to remind people that tsunamis are not generated by anything meteorological. They are not meteorological phenomena, and so we have absolutely no responsibility based on the science," said Met Service boss Evan Thompson.

"However, based on protocols locally, the Met Service has been asked to be the first point of call when warning messages have been received from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre. So when the messages come in on our network, we would advise the authorities who have the responsibility. The only reason we have that responsibility is that we respond 24 hours a day and have the equipment and staff that would allow us to monitor around the clock," he added.

In the case of last week's warning, Thompson said that they had followed the existing protocol.

"As soon as we got the message, we made the call to Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM). They also can get the message directly ... and they would then determine whether it was necessary to issue any kind of warning messages for Jamaica's population," he noted.

Still, Thompson said that the Met Service stood ready to partner with other players in disaster management to ensure Jamaica's readiness for earthquakes and their implications, including the possibility for tsunamis.

"It is clear that there are still some things that need to be addressed so that we can be a lot quicker in our responses if this were to occur in the future," he noted.

Perfecting operating procedures is among the required next steps he listed.

"Fine-tuning our standard operating procedures (is necessary) so that everybody knows what their roles will be, and not only at the ODPEM and the Met Service, but otherwise throughout the disaster management network. Concerning the communication processes, clearly we need to do some work to see how we are going to reach everybody along the coast in the shortest possible time," Thompson said.