Emergency website up, running

Cayman’s new web-based emergency communications system is designed to keep agencies like police, fire, utilities and the Red Cross in touch during a bad storm or other natural disaster.

But for your average every day weather buffs, it has some pretty neat stuff too.

The website known as the Web Emergency Operations Centre, or WebEOC, can be accessed at www.neoc.gov.ky. You can’t get past the site’s home page unless you’re authorised to log in.

However, current weather conditions at Owen Roberts International Airport, East End and Cayman Brac monitoring stations is available to the general public. Weather information for West Bay and Little Cayman is coming soon.

The information includes current humidity, wind conditions, rainfall totals, temperature, cloud ceilings, barometric readings and the dew point average.

Hazard Management Cayman Islands Deputy Director McCleary Frederick said they’re also considering adding a few other pages of basic weather information in the future for all residents to access.

The WebEOC programme first went live in the Cayman Islands in 2007 and emergency managers have been training staff and testing it since then. Cayman is believed to the first Caribbean country to use the system, which is widely used in the US.

Mr. Frederick said emergency managers decided to bring the web-based system in after communications troubles during Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

‘Before Ivan, all information was collected by hand, and written down in a log book,’ he said. ‘You had to browse through these volumes of hand-written notes.’

The web-based reporting system provides a sort of one-stop shop for all storm related information, Mr. Frederick said.

‘If there’s a significant event, all the groups, including the Governor’s office, fire, police…everyone can log on and find out what’s going on,’ he said.

The information is transferred via the secure website where other authorised users can click on and receive information about emergency situations in real time. Mr. Frederick said it will also aid communications with non-governmental entities, some of whom do not gather at the main airport emergency operations centre.

The system can also be used during responses to major public safety incidents; a plane crash or a chemical leak, for example.

There has been some discussion of using WebEOC Caribbean-wide, but Mr. Frederick said most island countries do not use the system. However, Cayman’s emergency managers did get an example earlier this year of how the system might be used regionally

‘When (Tropical Storm) Dolly went ashore we were able to access information and get reports from Texas,’ he said.