Text messaging is now officially part of the Early Warning System in the British Virgin Islands.
Representatives from all three cellular companies operating in the BVI today inked agreements that will facilitate the use of their respective Short Message Service (SMS) platforms to deliver emergency messages to their customer database.
His Excellency Governor John Duncan who signed on behalf of the BVI Government welcomed the historic development, noting that the move has been long in coming.
“Text messaging is a widely used communication tool. The ability to instantaneously share emergency messages with a wide cross-section of the population certainly helps to revolutionise our Early Warning System,” Governor Duncan stated.
He added, “It is a red letter day for disaster management in the BVI. I commend the Department of Disaster Management for the foresight to pursue this additional means of notification as well as the cellular companies for recognising the importance of their partnership in disaster risk reduction initiatives such as this.”
Under the agreements, CCT Global Communications, Digicel BVI Limited and LIME BVI will participate in the monthly testing of the Early Warning System which is conducted every fourth Friday; use their SMS platforms to disseminate messages to their customer database in the event of a potential hazard impact and share via social media, hazard information disseminated by the DDM.
Although the agreements are only now being signed, the cellular companies have in the past tested the efficacy of the system, with the most recent test conducted during the 2015 Caribewave Lantex simulation exercise in March.
All three companies have welcomed the opportunity to positively impact disaster preparedness activities in the BVI.
CCT’s Administration Manager, Ms. Rekeema Turnbull said, “CCT welcomes the opportunity to partner with DDM on initiatives that promote the safety and security of our community. DDM can always count on CCT as a resource to disseminate important messages in a timely manner to the BVI community. As a responsible corporate citizen, CCT is always willing to do our part to preserve and protect the BVI community.”
Digicel Financial Controller, Mr. Tommy Farrell noted that past events have highlighted the need for such service. “It was clear following the passage of Hurricane Gonzalo, through the Leeward Islands last year, that such a service was needed and Digicel is delighted to assist the DDM with this historical venture that they are committing to today. Digicel is always happy to assist the Territory and its citizens, especially in cases of emergency.”
Similar sentiments were shared by LIME’s General Manager, Mr. Sean Auguste. “LIME understands the critical role that communication plays in the need to inform our communities of any impending disasters and aiding in the management of recovery activities. We are happy that the Governor, DDM and the Government of the BVI have pursued this initiative to establish this communication framework and have included LIME. We commit to fully supporting it and doing what is required of us," Mr. Auguste stated.
Witnessing Thursday’s ceremony were Permanent Secretary in the Deputy Governor’s Office, Mr. David Archer; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communications and Works, Mr. Anthony McMaster and Chief Executive Officer of Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, Mr. Guy Malone as well as representatives of the DDM.
The DDM continues to create valuable partnerships with stakeholders in the BVI as it pursues disaster risk reduction initiatives to improve resilience in the BVI. The Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy and Programming Framework which guides the work of the department, has as it goal, Avoidable loss of lives, livelihoods and property reduced and development gains safeguarded.