The National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) has increased its communications resilience ahead of the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane season. NEMO received technical and financial support from the World Bank via the Disaster Vulnerability Resilience Programme (DVRP). Hon. Guy Joseph, Minister for Economic Development, Housing, Urban Renewal, Transport and Civil Aviation received a presentation from NEMO of the equipment and support provided by the DVRP which falls under his portfolio.
“It is clear that NEMO is making the transition from not just being called a command centre to deal with disasters but being fully prepared themselves to be able to respond, to communication and to be able to do all of the necessary things.”
NEMO’s Director, Dorine Gustave stated that NEMO has received VHF radios and equipment which have been installed at health facilities, fire and police stations around the island, as well as in secluded, hard to reach communities usually inaccessible during or post a disaster.
“We realize that VHF radio communication is one of the most resilient ways of communicating post a disaster and so we knew that we needed to bring it up to par so we can keep that communication line open.”
Telecommunications Officer with NEMO, Lionel Elis, noted over the years NEMO has suffered from a lack of equipment to truly call its base operations a true emergency centre. The new equipment, he says has enhanced NEMO’s communications abilities.
“NEMO I think and I am very proud to say that NEMO is getting to be number one in the Caribbean in terms of disaster preparedness in communications. And I can tell you that because I have worked in a lot of countries and they’re not as sophisticated as NEMO Saint Lucia… But more so, NEMO has its own network, and the network spans across the island and also to CEDEMA in Barbados.”
The DVRP also provided NEMO with a new vehicle, several electronic tablets capable of sending real time information from disaster response teams on the ground, an advanced information management system as a central repository for NEMO’s information and an early warning multi-hazard Siren system for vulnerable communities.
“With this equipment we are able to network NEMO in a manner that the information that we receive here can get out to the various media houses, the various persons, our donor agencies in a timely manner.”
IT Officer with the St. Lucia Fire Service, Trevor Hunte said the Fire Service and NEMO will each be provided with a search and rescue drone. These are high-tech drones capable of operating in adverse weather conditions, for up to 45 minutes with infrared technology.
“So when we look at situations of disasters for instance a storm or anything of that sort, the drone would be able to go out there and survey the affected areas even with a storm ongoing and relay live information back to NEMO headquarters so that they can make the best decisions on the situation.”
Training will also be provided for up to fifteen persons around the island on the proper operators of the drone. Minister Joseph also indicated that the support provided to NEMO must be seen as an important aspect in building the overall resilience of Saint Lucia.
“When we talk about resilience, resilience is not just in infrastructure works but resilience is in all aspects of our development. To be on the map as one of the countries in the region with one of the most modern technology systems for response to disaster is in itself a great achievement and I would like to place on record or thanks and appreciation to the world bank through the DVRP for the assistance that they have given to NEMO. Because sometimes these things are not very visible. All the things you see behind me are not seen as visible projects. A nice building is seen, a proper road and then you get a grand opening but these are the things that build the backbone to true resilience.”
Under the DVRP, NEMO will also receive training and equipment for its Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and its Damage Needs Assessment Teams (DANA).