A standalone emergency digital high frequency (HF) radio communication system to support its communication work in times of disasters has been handed over to the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) early this week.
A statement from Community Resilience to Climate and Disaster Risk in Solomon Islands Project (CRISP) within the Ministry of Enviroment,Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology said this was made possible through the support of the ministry together with its donor partners the Japanese Embassy, the European Union delegation and the World Bank.
The statement explained this standalone emergency communication system, supporting the existing emergency communications network is very important for the Solomon Islands, as it is among the top 20 countries with the highest economic risk to natural disasters.
“The average annual loss due to natural hazards and climate related events represents about 3 percent of the GDP or approximately SBD$144 million.”
The earthquakes that hit Solomon Islands last Friday and Saturday are a sad reminder of this risks.
In his opening remarks, Minister of the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology Samuel Manetoali emphasised that emergency communication in Solomon Islands proves challenging given that sometimes there are damaged or non-existent network infrastructures in rural areas.
“Network congestion happens when critical alert information must be disseminated. The Solution to this challenge is to establish a simple, reliable & robust communication network, independent of other communication infrastructures.
“This needs to be a Scalable Solution that can be easily expanded on as requirements develop and funding is available.” The Hon Minister stated that the system launched and handed over to NDMO is simple and robust and will greatly strengthen the capacity of the NDMO/NEOC/PEOC in its emergency communication work during times of emergencies.
Director of the National Disaster Management Office, Mr Loti Yates stated that the NDMO depends on telecommunications network, SIBC and other forms of communication networks to get early warning public safety messaging out to the public within sufficient time possible for evacuation purposes. However, with previous disasters such as the Gizo Tsunami and the Temotu Tsunami, congestions in the telecommunications network occurred.
“It is because of these experiences and the critical need to ensure early warning public safety messaging reaches out to those in remote areas, arose the need to have a standalone communication system that will ensure NDMO continue to give out early warnings, and ensure communication with their Provincial Disaster Officers is not disrupted, and for early feedback of impact assessments to the NDMO/NEOC for disaster relief work.”
The director pointed out the new digital HF emergency radio system proved reliable in last week’s earthquake in Kirakira where the earthquake’s impact was large.
“When the earthquake struck, the duty officer from the National Emergency Communication Room remotely triggered the Kirakira emergency digital radio siren alarm system from Honiara.
“This siren alerted the Provincial Disaster Officer in Kirakira to activate the Kirakira Provincial Emergency Operation Centre. The siren alarm highlighted to Kirakira Township residents they were highly in danger and need to evacuate to safety.”
The Director also stated HF radio man packs that comprised the HF digital emergency communication system was also deployed with the impact assessment team to Makira to ensure impact assessment information is fed back quickly to the NEOC office for relief and recovery work.
The EU Chargé D'Affaires a.i. to Solomon Islands and Vanuatu stated that it is crucial for disaster management and emergency services to be well equipped to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disaster.
“The EU remains Solomon Islands' strong partner in the fight against the risks and the effects of natural disasters. Partnering is not only about bringing money or equipment, but also about jointly committing to a sustainable future.
“We therefore look forward, along with other partners, to supporting the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Agenda.”
Similar commitments were expressed by His Excellency Mr. Kenichi Kimiya, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Embassy of Japan in Solomon Islands.
His Excellency expressed his heartfelt sympathy for the people affected by the powerful earthquakes last Friday morning.
He stated that one of the priority areas of the Japan’s Development Cooperation to Solomon Islands is the matter of Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management.
“Japan and Solomon Islands have shared the same challenges that we both have experienced a lot of earthquakes and tsunami.
“Therefore, we are very happy to work together with Solomon Islands and other development partners to address disaster risk management.
“We sincerely hope that this emergency HF digital radio communication system would be fully utilized for NDMO’s daily operation and as soon as we receive the official request from your government, we are ready to extend our emergency support to the people of Solomon Islands.”
The World Bank administers the funding for the CRISP project. Mr. Guido Rurangwa, World Bank Country Representative, said “The regular occurrence of natural disasters underscores the necessity of having a good monitoring system, which allows to quickly estimate the number of affected people as well as damages caused to their assets, in order to organize relief efforts.
“The World Bank remains committed to working with other donor partners and the Solomon Islands Government in strengthening risk resilience.”
The CRISP project engaged Codan Australia to supply the radios. The system is installed at the NDMO office in Honiara, PEOC offices in Kirakira, Gizo, Auki and Lata Provincial Emergency Operating Centres.
Grant Funds for the system are administered by the World Bank from various donors including the Japan Human Resources Policy Development Fund, the ACP-EU Natural Disaster Fund through the Global Fund for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Global Environmental Facility Fund through the Least Country Development Fund.