St. Thomas — The Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) seems to be hard at work solving one of the most challenging parts of its disaster response strategy — disseminating accurate information to the public. The agency began testing out WhatsApp as a medium for delivering timely updates to residents.
Many Virgin Islanders were greeted yesterday with a public service announcement from Mona Barnes, the director of VITEMA via WhatsApp. “Good morning, this is Director Barnes of VITEMA. Today is November the 13th 2018,” Barnes announced. “As of 5 o’clock, Invest 96L continues to become less organized as it approaches our area.”
The Director goes on to share details about flood conditions beginning in the territory today through a verified recording shared with residents via WhatsApp.
Facebook owned WhatsApp recently began labelling forwarded photos, videos and audio content to prevent the spread of fake news around the world. Especially in rural areas and small localities like the U.S. Virgin Islands.
An attempt to test of the territory’s audible tsunami sirens failed on Wednesday, prompting a formal report from VITEMA informing the system’s vendor, American Signal Corporation of the failure.
Many residents reported frustration with the failure of the sirens, which are the first line of defense in the event of an active tsunami threat.
The agency’s efforts to diversify the way information is delivered is a welcome addition after the destructive 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season. The agency, tasked with disseminating information and coordination certain aspects of disaster response seems to be diversifying the way it passes information to the public.
Featured image first seen on the VI Consortium