Measures to improve means of communication on islands

Ferd Grapperhaus


THE HAGUE–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.

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.

Source: The Daily Herald