May 10, 2011
Stakeholders launch Global Earthquake Model Caribbean Regional Programme

Members of the engineering and scientific communities, together with representatives from international funding agencies and other regional stakeholders,{{more}} convened at the Kapok Hotel in Port of Spain, Trinidad, to launch the Global Earthquake Model Caribbean Regional Programme, which seeks to establish uniform and open standards for calculating and communicating earthquake risk worldwide.

The programme was launched on Tuesday, May 3, by the UWI Seismic Research Centre (SRC), in collaboration with the Global Earthquake Model (GEM) Foundation.

The GEM Foundation and the UWI SRC officially joined forces in the promotion of Global Earthquake Model vision in the Caribbean in January, 2011.

While the knowledge and expertise required for developing tools to calculate earthquake hazard and risk exists, the low occurrence of earthquakes in any one country or region renders it difficult to test the efficiency of these tools.

Dr. Rui Pinho, Secretary General of the GEM Foundation, noted that this was clearly illustrated in recent earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand where, despite advanced seismic risk assessment systems in those countries, the models still did not cater for a correct estimation of the likely intensity of the earthquakes that occurred.

“We urgently need a trans-national dialogue to discuss and vet our different ideas and approaches, as only through such global testing will we learn what methods are superior, and only through a shared standard set of tools will we be able to exchange ideas, results and approaches and ultimately mitigate seismic risk to which the world is exposed,” said Pinho.

Participants from across the region were introduced to the GEM goals and discussions were held to establish a strategy for achieving them. Through this interaction, it is hoped that gaps in existing knowledge in the Caribbean regarding earthquake hazard, vulnerability and earthquake risk can be identified and the necessary research prioritized in order to make full use of the GEM software and tools in the Caribbean region.

Minister of Science, Technology and Tertiary Education Senator Fazal Karim of Trinidad and Tobago delivered the feature address at the opening ceremony, during which he declared his support for the initiative, given the Caribbean’s vulnerability to natural hazards such as earthquakes, which continue to undermine the region’s efforts to attain sustainable development.

“We welcome the launching of this GEM Caribbean Regional Programme, which will bringtogether all the key stakeholders in the region to develop a strategy for achieving GEM’s goals within the Caribbean,” stated Karim.

Director of Business Development, UWI Dr. David Rampersad delivered welcome remarks on behalf of PVC Professor Clement Sankat, Campus Principal, UWI St. Augustine Campus, in which he emphasized the importance of strong partnerships, such as the GEM/SRC relationship, among various stakeholders, for advancing the cause of sustainable development initiatives.

The Global Earthquake Model (GEM) was launched with assistance from the Organization forEconomic Cooperation and Development (OECD) at the beginning of 2009 and is a global collaborative effort that brings together state-of-the-art science, national, regional and international organisations and individuals aimed at the establishment of uniform and open standards for calculating and communicating earthquake risk worldwide.

The development of Regional Programmes (RPs) is the main mechanism by which the GEM tools will be transferred, with a view to creating a uniform globally used standard. The RPs will involve local experts using GEM software and tools, who generate local data and validate the data and standards that are being created on the global level. RPs have already been established in Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia.