Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett today presented Destination Assurance Managers from each of the island’s resort areas with satellite phones designed to increase communication during major climatic disruptions and other natural disasters.
Speaking at the official handing over ceremony for the satellite phones, at the Ministry of Tourism’s New Kingston office, the Minister said that, “To ensure that the tourism sector can respond quickly and recover fast is central to the overall economic pattern that Jamaica and the Caribbean must have. Communication is a central part of resilience building and the ability to bring modern high-tech devices to our communications process is essential.”
Minister Bartlett also disclosed that his Ministry would also provide much-needed regional communications support, via the Global Centre for Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management, which will be housed at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus.
The six satellite phones were acquired as part of an overall system designed to improve the interface and dialogue between the Tourism Ministry and its agencies, the Tourism Emergency Operations Centres, the National Emergency Operations Centre, the Tourism Resort Areas as well as tourism partners and stakeholders.
The Ministry’s Senior Director of Technical Services, David Dobson, who was also at the launch, explained that the satellite phones were acquired based on feedback from tourism stakeholders and disaster managers in 2015, which pointed to the need to enhance the sector’s disaster mitigation and emergency response framework.
“Previously, we had two-way radios which had a five-mile radius and were not sufficient to cover the entire island. Having received the feedback, we allocated satellite phones that can be used to make calls anywhere in the world even when the network is down. They can also call any kind of phone and provide for faster communication flow,” said Mr Dobson.
Since 2006, the Ministry has been working in collaboration with the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) to mainstream Disaster Risk Management within the tourism sector through its Multi-hazard and Contingency Planning Programme.
As a result of the partnership with ODPEM, the Ministry has created a comprehensive disaster management framework that is managed by the Tourism Emergency Management Committee (TEMC) which advises on, plans and coordinates the management of natural and man-made hazards and emergencies that threaten Jamaica’s tourism industry.
In expressing his appreciation for the devices, Director General of the ODPEM, Major Clive Davis said, “The Ministry of Tourism is moving beyond the challenge [of communicating during disasters] and is taking proactive steps to strengthen their disaster communications system.”
He also gave his assurance that the national disaster office stands ready to continue to support the development of the programme and provide any required assistance.