Text messages, emails and broadcast interrupts – those are the modes of communication disaster management officials will be using to alert the public about impending weather conditions and other hazards.
The Common Alerting Protocol (CAP), a digital format for exchanging emergency alerts that allows a consistent alert message to be disseminated simultaneously over many different communications systems, was officially launched on November 10, 2017. It was tested publicly for the first time during the March 2018 Caribewave exercise to send dummy messages of a “tsunami warning” being issued for Barbados under the title “exercise, exercise, exercise”.
Director of the Department of Emergency Management (DEM), Kerry Hinds, says CAP will assist in the mass alerting process. “It is what I consider a value added to our existing national early warning system and our mass alerting system. [We hope] more persons would sign on to the various modes and would be more in tune [with] what is going on as it relates to hazard alerting in Barbados.”
It is expected that the CAP system would reach a wide cross-section of the public, including vulnerable persons who are at risk from the various hazards.
Senior Telecommunications Officer at the Telecommunications Unit, Renee Evelyn, explained that the CAP system emerged from a UNDP-funded project entitled: Strengthening Resilience and Coping Capacities in the Caribbean through Integrated Early Warning Systems. “You can have text messaging, email, radio and television interrupts, so it increases the likelihood that an individual would receive an alert by multiple means,” he stated.
At present, CITA 90.1 FM, Slam 101.1 FM, Y103.3 and CBC 98.1 FM, are the only radio stations outfitted to transmit the radio interrupt.
However, Mr Evelyn said the hope is that Government would expand it to include additional radio stations, the television station and any other broadcast providers.
The senior telecommunications officer explained that to enable alerts via phones, iPhone owners could visit the Apple Store while those with Android devices could download the application from the Google Play Store. He added that the process of downloading and installing the application takes approximately five minutes, after which persons would receive alerts when they are issued, once there is a data connection.
To receive email notifications, persons may register at the Department of Emergency Management’s website at www.dem.gov.bb to receive alerts as they are distributed.
Mr Evelyn advised that the radio station interrupts (a break in regular programming to issue the alert) would be used only in extreme circumstances, such as in the event of a tsunami warning being issued for Barbados.
In the event that there is no internet connectivity, Mr. Evelyn stressed that the national radio network and radio stations would be used to get the messages out. “As it stands now, we have back up precautionary measures in place to prolong the use of the CAP in the event of a disaster.” (BGIS)