Evacuation drill tests preparedness plans for schools in tsunami prone areas

Mar 6, 2018

The drill involved 3,260 students and 162 teachers from 5 schools situated along the Suva coastline (Photo: UNDP/Merana Kitione)

Suva, Fiji - A tsunami drill in Suva, Fiji, this week provided an opportunity for school management, disaster management officials, government officials and local enforcement agencies to test preparedness and evacuation plans for schools in tsunami prone areas.

The drill, held simultaneously, involved 3,260 students and 162 teachers from five schools situated along the Suva coastline, a few minutes’ drive from the capital city’s central business district (CBD).

The simulation exercise estimated the arrival of the first tsunami wave, announced by the Seismology Unit of the Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources, at 38 minutes. Officials reported the average evacuation time for Thursday’s drill at 15 minutes – the time taken for the students to arrive at the safe zone.

The event provided an opportunity for the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) to evaluate its tsunami response capabilities in line with the National Tsunami Response Plan (2017) and for the students and teachers to experience a real-time tsunami scenario.

“Conducting a drill helps to test preparedness plans and map safe evacuation routes. This requires preparation – having the knowledge of surroundings and evacuation areas, recognizing a tsunami warning, knowing what you need to do and how to stay safe. As our partnership with a number of government agencies has shown, these efforts go beyond the schools themselves,” said United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji Country Director and Head of Regional Programme and Policy, Bakhodir Burkhanov.

Fiji’s Minister responsible for National Disaster Management and Meteorological Services, Hon. Inia Seruiratu said “Because tsunamis can hit with very little or no warning, adequate preparedness is of the utmost importance. Proper planning for a tsunami will save the lives of our loved ones.

“This is just the beginning of a big undertaking. More schools, business, and communities in Suva and throughout Fiji will participate in similar exercises in the coming months. What we learn from here will assist us in planning for the National Tsunami Drill.”

The tsunami drill in Suva is part of UNDP’s and Japan’s regional project “Strengthening School Preparedness for Tsunamis in the Asia-Pacific region” in 18 Asia-Pacific countries.

“Japan has had its fair share of natural disasters including tsunamis and I am proud to say that Japan has always recovered stronger and better than ever before. We believe that it is important to save as many lives as possible by spreading the lessons learnt. Through these awareness campaigns and evacuation drills, we hope it will do just that,” saidCharge d’Affaires at the Embassy of Japan, Tsuguyoshi Hada.

The “Strengthening School Preparedness for Tsunamis in the Asia-Pacific Region” project contributes to the achievement of the Sendai Framework’s targets to reduce lives lost, numbers of people affected, and economic damage from natural and human-induced hazards. It also aims to achieve UNDP’s goal to help vulnerable regions to adapt to climate change by integrating disaster risk measures into national strategies.

Contact information

Merana Kitione, Communications Officer, Resilience and Sustainable Development Team, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, tel: +679 3227 579, email: merana.kitione@undp.org

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