#Kingston, June 26, 2018 – Jamaica – Establishment of a national emergency communication system is on track, with the facility slated to be up and running within the next two years. Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Major Clive Davis, said the required equipment and other inputs are expected to start arriving in the island by the end of the year for installation to begin.
“The bid document should be in the country (in) June for us to go to market, and then we expect the equipment to start arriving late in 2018,” he told JIS News.
“By 2020, it should be fully up and running, but it is an extensive job. It includes putting infrastructure in some 35 communication spots or towers across Jamaica for us to make sure that the communication is secured,” he added.
The Governments of Jamaica and Japan, in April last year, signed a grant agreement for the provision of $1.6 billion (¥1.39 billion/US$12.58 million) to fund the implementation of the ‘Improvement of Emergency Communication System Project’. The funds are being disbursed in tranches for procurement of equipment.
The project aims to provide an effective emergency telecommunications infrastructure and platform to facilitate timely communication among government agencies and first responders during an emergency. It includes integration of the National Works Agency (NWA) microwave network for data communication; installation of communication systems that will serve an additional 24 repeater locations, up from the nine stations ODPEM currently operates; and early warning sirens at 15 locations in three communities.
It will also facilitate the acquisition of radio equipment, transmission and reception devices to critical response entities and for placement at key offshore locations – the Morant and Pedro Cays. The project will significantly strengthen ODPEM’s preparedness to respond in the event of natural disasters through mechanisms to improve the timeliness of response and recovery at the national, parish and community levels.
Major Davis said that the project is important in improving public safety and communication before, during and after natural disasters, as it will ensure connectivity when the standard commercial systems stop working.
“We could not reach some heads of Government… and those communication systems are provided by the same providers we have in Jamaica, so we have to take another step. We have to make sure that we have a backup to the backup, and it’s a part of that business continuity plan that we are talking about,” he added.
The project is critical for the improvement of public security and safety; fire rescue, search and rescue (marine and land) and medical emergencies; evacuation planning, communication and mobilisation; the Emergency Operations Centre; and for the upgrading of communities and areas prone to flooding, storm surges, landslides and other hazards.