Countries around the North-eastern Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Connected Seas (known as the NEAM region) are gearing up for a tsunami communication test and response exercise scheduled for 6 and 7 November 2023. This exercise coincides with World Tsunami Awareness Day, celebrated annually on 5 November.
Tsunamis are rapid-onset natural disasters, and it's vital for regional and national tsunami warning systems to be ready to respond effectively. These exercises help ensure that communication links function seamlessly and that agencies and response personnel understand their roles during a real event.
This isn't the first time such an international exercise has taken place in this region; it follows earlier exercises in 2012, 2014, 2017, and 2021. The NEAMWave 23 tsunami exercise aims to help countries assess their readiness and raise awareness about the tsunami risk in the region. It's an opportunity to evaluate local tsunami response plans, improve preparedness, and enhance coordination among participating nations.
For the first time, this year's NEAMWave 23 exercise will include communities actively working towards becoming "Tsunami Ready", a twelve-step indicator based international certification provided by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission to enhance community capacities being prepared for tsunamis. The communities are located in Cyprus (Larnaka), Egypt (Alexandria), Malta (Marsaxlokk), Morocco (El Jadida), Greece (Samos), Spain (Chipiona), Türkiye (Büyükçekmece), France (Cannes), and Italy (Minturno, Palmi, and Marzamemi).
During NEAMWave 23 there will be simulations of earthquakes-generated tsunamis, followed by the dissemination of messages by Tsunami Service Providers (TSPs), organisations or entities responsible for providing timely and accurate information related to tsunamis in the NEAM region. The participating countries will then simulate response actions, involving Tsunami Warning Focal Points (TWFPs), National Tsunami Warning Centres (NTWCs), and Civil Protection Authorities. These exercises can range from orientation sessions and drills to table-top exercises, functional exercises, and even full-scale exercises with actual evacuation drills, especially with the involvement of schools.
The exercise will be conducted in two joint scenarios—one in the North-eastern Atlantic and the other in the Mediterranean. These scenarios are designed to test the capabilities of accredited Tsunami Service Providers (TSPs) in the NEAM region. The tsunami exercise messages for these scenarios will be issued on Monday and Tuesday, 6 and 7 November 2023.
To allow countries to participate in both scenarios, they will be conducted consecutively over one-day sessions for different regions of interest to avoid any overlaps.
The NEAMWave23 Instruction Manual provides more detailed information on how the exercise will be implemented, and a NEAMWave Exercise Brief has been prepared to encourage participation. Importantly, if a real earthquake and tsunami threat occurs during the exercise's time frame, the exercise will be terminated to prioritise real-time response efforts.
About the IOC/UNESCO:
The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) promotes international cooperation in marine sciences to improve management of the ocean, coasts and marine resources. The IOC enables its 150 Member States to work together by coordinating programmes in capacity development, ocean observations and services, ocean science and tsunami warning. The work of the IOC contributes to the mission of UNESCO to promote the advancement of science and its applications to develop knowledge and capacity, key to economic and social progress, the basis of peace and sustainable development.
About the Ocean Decade 2021-2030:
Proclaimed in 2017 by the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) (‘the Ocean Decade’) seeks to stimulate ocean science and knowledge generation to reverse the decline of the state of the ocean system and catalyse new opportunities for sustainable development of this massive marine ecosystem. The vision of the Ocean Decade is ‘the science we need for the ocean we want’. The Ocean Decade provides a convening framework for scientists and stakeholders from diverse sectors to develop the scientific knowledge and the partnerships needed to accelerate and harness advances in ocean science to achieve a better understanding of the ocean system, and deliver science-based solutions to achieve the 2030 Agenda. The UN General Assembly mandated UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) to coordinate the preparations and implementation of the Decade.