In the wake of “fake news” emanating from anonymous sources regarding natural disasters, crime and other serious events, a new app has been launched to ensure Barbadians get accurate and timely alerts directly from the agencies responsible for handling them.
The Bajan Alert app was launched today at the Barbados Water Authority’s Pine headquarters.
“Apart from the passion I have for helping people in emergency situations, the real reason for developing the app was that over the years we have seen a lot of fake news in and around Barbados. I remember as recently as Tropical Storm Kirk two weeks ago, people were putting up videos of flooding that occurred two years ago in other countries and crediting it to Barbados, and we need to nip these practices in the bud early before they cause Barbadians to panic unnecessarily,” Director of Bajan Alert, Kemar Saffrey, said.
The Bajan Alert app brings together all of Barbados’ essential services, including the Royal Barbados Police Force, the Barbados Ambulance Service, the Barbados Fire Service, the Barbados Water Authority, Transport Board, Barbados Port Inc., GAIA Inc., the Department of Emergency Management, the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the island’s major media houses and other agencies.
“Presently, most of the essential services have their own platforms but people, especially younger ones, do not really follow them, so we thought of developing an app where all of the services are under one umbrella so they can reach the same number of people,” Saffrey explained.
The app is free to download for the general public and all essential services and provides quick alerts, he added.
“For example, if the BWA says there is a ruptured main, they would key in their code from a phone or laptop, and send out an alert based on the type of alerts they can send out. A logo will come up, they can pin the location and then send it out to the public. They can add details where necessary also.”
But, he stressed that these alerts would be sent out only for matters that would affect a significant portion of the population, such as “hurricanes, tsunamis, gas leaks, mass casualty incidents”.
In the event that the island’s main telecommunications providers are “knocked out of commission” during a storm, alerts can be sent via the SMS messaging format. Alerts are available for 24 hours unless the relevant agencies need to update them.
Best known as the head of the Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society, Saffrey, who along with Wendell Beckles developed the app, said they hoped to have 30,000 subscribers on board before yearend, and over 100,000 before the start of next year’s Atlantic hurricane season in June.
He commended the corporate entities represented on the app for “powering the app under their corporate social responsibility banner, and that is how we have been able to offer it free”.
The app developer said the duo has been approached about offering the service elsewhere in the Caribbean and are “looking at partnering with CDEMA in order to facilitate that”.
Bajan Alert is accessible on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/warningbajans/) and is available for download as a smartphone app in the Android (Google Play Store) and iPhone (iTunes) environments.