Radio emergency alert system launching soon

Home Affairs Minister Tara Rivers makes opening remarks at the 30 July National Emergency Notification System workshop.

Cayman’s emergency response agencies have received training in the new National Emergency Notification System, part of which is designed to interrupt local radio transmissions to broadcast critical public safety information in the event of a disaster.

Julian Lewis, director of the Department of Public Safety Communications, said final testing with all radio stations will be completed by the end of this month, when Phase I of the system will be fully activated and operational.

At a workshop held last week, participants received details about of how the system would work and the status of the project, which was spurred by difficulties in disseminating information during incidents in recent years.

Home Affairs Minister Tara Rivers, in opening remarks at the workshop, said, “Many of you will recall the Sol fire in July 2017, and the subsequent alert of a potential tsunami threat following an earthquake north of Honduras in January 2018. It was immediately apparent that the mechanisms that we relied on historically to alert the public, like press releases, radio and TV advisories, were not adequate in these situations.”

There had been widespread criticism of the level of communication from officials during the 2017 fire at Jackson Point fuel depot that led to an evacuation of neighbouring homes and businesses. Similar concerns were also expressed about the speed of emergency communications during the January 2018 tsunami scare.

Director of Hazard Management Cayman Islands Danielle Coleman said she was pleased with last week’s workshop, which was coordinated by her agency along with the Department of Public Safety Communications. The workshop was held in preparation for the final testing stage of the Phase I implementation of the system.

“The workshop was very successful as it provided HMCI and DPSC with an opportunity to provide information about Phase I of the NENS to all key stakeholder agencies and get their input on the content for public messaging, which is critical,” Coleman said in a news release.

The workshop was attended by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, the Cayman Islands Airports Authority, the Department of Environment, the Department of Environmental Health, the Health Services Authority, the Utility Regulation and Competition Office of the Cayman Islands (OfReg), the Cayman Islands National Weather Service, Emergency Medical Services and Radio Cayman.

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