VITEMA Issues Tips as Nearby Earthquakes Continue

VITEMA Director Daryl Jaschen (VITEMA photo)

As nearby earthquakes continue to impact Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands remain on alert. At 9 a.m. on Saturday, a magnitude 5.9 earthquake occurred off the southwest coast of Puerto Rico causing further damages to the island’s infrastructure. There are currently no tsunami watches or warnings issued for the U.S. Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico.

“Our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico continue to be devastated by earthquakes,” said Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) Director Daryl Jaschen. “The U.S. Virgin Islands stands in solidarity with Puerto Rico and continue to keep the island in our thoughts and prayers,” said Jaschen.

“Residents are advised to stay informed and continue to assess your preparedness to quickly respond should a major earthquake impact the territory. If we all do something today to prepare for these threats, we will be in a better position to recover and preserve life and property in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The team at VITEMA remains ready to respond should the territory become impacted,” he said.

VITEMA continues to provide residents with real-time alerts and updates. Emergency preparedness and response information is provided on Alert VI, the Agency’s website, on Facebook at “VITEMA,” Instagram at “vitema usvi” and on Twitter at “readyusvi.” Earthquake preparedness and response information is provided to local radio stations and the local media on an ongoing basis.

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On Thursday, Jan. 9, VITEMA met with territorial first responder partners, including island administrators, Department of Public Works, Department of Human Services, Department of Education, Office of Collective Bargaining, V.I. Fire Service, V.I. Police Department and the project director Dr. Roy Watlington Ph.D. of the Ocean and Coastal Observing – Virgin Islands to discuss earthquake and tsunami preparation and response for the territory.

Earthquakes can happen without warning and result in injuries and damages to property and infrastructure. Now is the best time to prepare for any disaster, before it happens. Disasters do not plan ahead, but people can. VITEMA is issuing the following tips:

– Secure heavy items in your home like bookcases, refrigerators, televisions and objects that hang on walls. Store heavy and breakable objects on low shelves.

– Create a family emergency communication plan and ensure everyone in your household knows where to meet if you get separated. Share emergency plans with your neighbors and combine plans whenever possible.

– Stay informed of emergencies impacting the territory by registering for Alert VI at today.

– Practice “drop, cover and hold on” earthquake response procedures with all family members, i.e.:

Drop: Drop wherever you are on to your hands and knees. If you’re using a wheelchair or walker with a seat, make sure your wheels are locked and remain seated until the shaking stops.

Cover: Cover your head and neck with your arms. If a sturdy table or desk is nearby, crawl underneath it for shelter.

Hold on: If you are under a table or desk, hold on with one hand and be ready to move with it if it moves.

– Prepare a supply kit that includes enough food and water for at least 10 days. Consider each person’s specific needs, including medication. Store critical documents in a watertight container. Have extra batteries and charging devices for phones and other critical equipment. Do not forget the needs of pets.

– Consider obtaining an earthquake insurance policy. A standard homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover earthquake damage.

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  1. After all these years of bringing up this topic to Vitema and other disaster-related entities, I continue to be astounded by the lack of practical education and guidance on earthquakes in the Caribbean. I see the old drop, cover and hold on. All of the suggestions are good….if you live in Chicago, but one of the MOST CRITICAL problems facing people in the Caribbean is the glaring elephant in the room….the fact that they live either above or on the side of a C I S T E R N of water. Nowhere have I seen written or verbal instructions or recommendations to people who are standing above a full cistern of water in a high level Richter scale earthquake. Because I have thought about it, I know what I would do. I live in the lower floor of a building with 8 inch poured concrete perimeter walls whose usually full cistern completely covers the back wall of my unit. So….in an earthquake, I immediately head OUTSIDE of the building and do not bother with the inevitable drop, cover and hold on. I’m heading AWAY from that full cistern of water which could crack and drown me as I am looking for a desk to crawl under. And since I have done my homework, I go to an outside location which is clear of overhead boulders, etc. which can be equally as dangerous as a full cistern of water. This situation becomes particularly acute if you are in a similar type building built in the l960s and below because the sand used to build these concrete buildings was taken directly from the various beaches as there were no concrete companies on island at that time. The end result is that these buildings built with sea sand are full of salt which eventually eats away at the steel and concrete of the building, making them more susceptible to damage from shaking, etc.

    So…what say you, VITEMA, about giving pertinent guidelines to our people on what they really need to be doing in an island earthquake. I await your response with bated breath.

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