Central government intends to improve communication facilities in support of disaster management

The Dutch Government is contemplat­ing a number of measures to improve the means of communication in St. Eu­statius and Saba to ensure that a reliable system is in place in case of a disaster such as a hurricane.

Ferd Grapperhaus

Dutch Minister of Justice and Security Ferd Grapper­haus sent a letter to the Sec­ond Chamber of the Dutch Parliament this week with the government’s response to a 2017 report titled “Sur­vey objective realisation communication means Ca­ribbean Netherlands.”
Considering the proximity of the start of the new hur­ricane season, the Minister and his colleagues, State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops and State Secretary of Economic Af­fairs and Climate Mona Keijzer, are striving to solve acute issues first. This wish was also expressed by the Governments of St. Eusta­tius and Saba.

One of the measures being considered is the deploy­ment of a communications container with a limited emergency network, in­cluding an extendible mast that can be directly linked to the sea cable. The imple­mentation of an early warn­ing system for the Carib­bean Netherlands will be assessed.

In light of the recent ex­periences with Hurricane Irma, additional attention will be given to the continu­ity of networks. The mobile networks in St. Eustatius and Saba are completely dependent on St. Maarten when the systems on the two smaller islands go down during a hurricane.

“In the case of Hurri­cane Irma, St. Maarten first needed to get its own affairs in order before St. Eustatius and Saba could be assisted. In practice this meant that St. Eusta­tius and Saba had to wait a number of weeks before repairs could take place,” stated Minister Grapper­haus in his letter.

He noted that his col­league State Secretary Kei­jzer would discuss with the telecommunication provid­ers how the dependence of St. Eustatius and Saba on St. Maarten could be re­duced or eliminated. The input of the telecommuni­cation sector will also be sought on how to improve the deployment and effec­tiveness of means of com­munication during disasters and crisis situations.

Furthermore, an assess­ment will be made as to whether the linking of the C3 emergency network with the sea cable can sub­stantially contribute to the reliability of the connec­tions. This will be discussed with the involved parties: the telecommunication providers and the sea cable operator.

Measures were already taken to replace the older portable radio-telephones of the emergency services on the islands. Fifty new portable radio-telephones for the Police Force and Fire Department have been purchased which will be distributed in the first quarter of 2018.

The process to replace the equipment of the emergen­cy control rooms (“meldka­mers”) and the network in­frastructure on the islands will start this year, as well as the trajectory to upgrade the emergency control rooms.

In the survey regarding the means of communication in the Caribbean Netherlands it was concluded that the operational sharing and communicating of informa­tion within and among the emergency services and the local governments was am­ple under regular circum­stances.

However, during a disaster or crisis, problems might evolve with the operational sharing of communication and information. This in­creases the risk of victims and injury, especially when speed is required in case of a fire, medical emergency situations, disasters and crises. During Hurricane Irma, most of the commu­nication was lost in St. Eu­statius and Saba.

The Daily Herald.

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