Barbados’ communication systems to alert the public about pending disasters received a passing grade following the conclusion of the annual Caribewave exercise today.
But, while the messages were effectively disseminated and received via various platforms, exercise participants highlighted the need for continued training in effectively communicating the alert messages.
Speaking during a virtual after-action review, Director of the Department of Emergency Management (DEM), Kerry Hinds, said: “Practise makes perfect. This exercise showed the need to continue practising, especially in a controlled environment.”
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Caribewave exercise took the form of a communications test among various agencies. It tested agencies’ ability to receive and disseminate messages, using the correct terminology.
Messages of a “pending tsunami” were transmitted via the Astro and VHF radio frequencies, the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) system, which sent emails and cell phone alerts, and triggered radio interrupts across the 101.1 FM, 103.1FM, 90.1 FM and 98.1 FM radio stations.
Alerts were also sent out via the DEM’s social media channels, including Facebook and Instagram.
Ms. Hinds underscored the importance of conducting the exercise, noting that emergency communication was very important in the event of the island being impacted by an emergency or disaster.
The Director added that the need to communicate in a very responsible manner could affect the overall outcome, in terms of public safety in the wake of a disaster.
She acknowledged recommendations from participants for further training, and an interest by some to enhance the training.
During the after-action review, participants expressed a desire for further training in the operations of the VHF and Astro radios and the use of the phonetic alphabet. They also requested that future exercises be hosted over a longer time frame.