The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA), Central Emergency Relief Organisation of Barbados (CERO), the Barbados Meteorological Service, and Digicel (Barbados) Limited have teamed up to launch an emergency warning system for the 2004 hurricane season.
The e-MergencyAlert project, launched at a news conference Tuesday, will start in Barbados and will be gradually introduced into other 15 member states of CDERA across the Caribbean.
In the event of a hurricane warning or watch being issued for Barbados, the Central Emergency Relief Organisation (CERO) of Barbados will be able to “simulcast” a message to its emergency management team which will allow for its quicker mobilisation.
Coordinator of CDERA, Mr. Jeremy Collymore said that e-MergencyAlert was an initiative that represents CDERA’s ongoing efforts to better utilise Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for a more efficient operation.
“We are confident that prudent application of existing ICTs can considerably enhance our early warning systems,” he told the news conference.
Director of Emergency Services of CERO, Ms Judy Thomas, said that this new addition to the suite of early warning tools will also be very useful in other disasters which happen with little or no notice such as oil spills, accidents, airplane crashes, and seaborne accidents.
Marketing Manager of Digicel (Barbados) Limited Faye Gill said that from the first moment that the project was raised, Digicel required no persuasion.
“Disaster management is the business of all of us and we were very happy to immediately get involved,” she said before signing a one year agreement with CDERA to provide GSM cell phones to the CDERA and CERO emergency management team.
As part of the agreement, customers of Digicel will now be able to access local weather information as forecast by the Barbados Meteorological Service via their cell phones by dialing into their DigiInfo service at 4636 and texting the word “CDERA”.
Director of the Barbados Meteorological Service, Mr Chester Layne, said he was very pleased to be part of the project which will also see local weather forecast being posted to the CDERA website (http://www.cdera.org) three times per day.
For the first time, local weather forecasts, and by extension local storm/hurricane advisories will now be available in real-time via the CDERA website. Other webmasters can now pull that information and use it on their websites instead of having to use extrapolated material from international news sources.
Ms Gill said that Digicel’s transmission towers were constructed to withstand hurricane force winds, up to a certain extent, and it was anticipated that cell phone service will be available during a hurricane or storm. In the event that a tower is damaged or destroyed there is a contingency plan where all cell phone providers in Barbados will carry each other’s traffic and therefore service will continue with minimum interruption.
CEDRA and Digicel are also to launch the e-MergencyAlert service in St Vincent and St Lucia shortly.