Tsunami sirens are working again, VITEMA says
Published: October 20, 2012
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ST. CROIX - The territory's tsunami early warning system is fully functional again, according to the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency.
VITEMA sent a press release Friday afternoon saying that Bronx Communications spent four days replacing 50-watt repeaters with 100-watt repeaters on sirens located on St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John. Bronx Communications and VITEMA also tested the system.
The Daily News reported Oct. 5 that the tsunami warning system was completely inoperable on St. Croix, that one of the system's four sirens on St. Thomas was not functioning and that one of two sirens on St. John was not operating.
At the time, VITEMA director Elton Lewis said that the St. Croix sirens already had been shut down for about a week, and the sirens in the St. Thomas-St. John district had been down for about two weeks.
In Friday's prepared statement, Lewis described the problem that led VITEMA to shut the sirens down this way:
"Once someone spoke into VHF radio, the repeaters would pick up the transmission and it could be heard through the sirens' speakers, which is what we call 'bleed-over.' We were forced to render the system inoperable until the problem was fixed. We have addressed the issue on those sirens where bleed-over was occurring, and as of Tuesday, the entire system is operational. The upgraded repeaters have effectively eliminated the bleed-over."
It was not clear why the proper repeaters were not installed in the first place on the system, which is just more than a year old. The Daily News asked why the new system needed the fix.
Lewis would not answer that question.
"I am not a technician. I am not in a position to answer any technical questions." Lewis said Friday afternoon.
Two weeks earlier, he referred that question to Bronx, and someone at Bronx referred the question right back to VITEMA.
It was not clear Friday afternoon whether anyone at VITEMA had an answer.
"Let's move on, please," Lewis said.
The 10 sirens comprising the territory's all-hazards warning system at this point are just the first segment of what officials have said they hope will become a comprehensive system.
Friday's press release said VITEMA is "nearing completion of a contract for the second phase of the All-Hazards Warning System installation."
Installed in June 2011, the first phase of the project covers only very limited areas of shoreline.
There are four existing sirens on St. Croix: one at D.C. Canegata Ballpark; one at the government parking lot in Christiansted; one at the government parking lot in Frederiksted near the Legislature; and one on Emancipation Drive at the other end of Frederiksted town, said VITEMA spokeswoman Christine Lett.
On St. Thomas, the four existing sirens are located at Emile Griffith Ballpark, Yacht Haven, Red Hook Marina and King Airport, Lett said.
On St. John, Cruz Bay and Coral Bay are the two siren sites.
According to information VITEMA released earlier in the project, each siren is capable of providing a tone that can be heard up to a mile away and pre-recorded messages or live public addresses that can be heard and understood up to 2,000 feet away.
The VITEMA statement on Friday said that Phase Two "includes 11 additional sirens to be divided between St. Thomas and St. Croix."
However, the press release listed more than 11 areas as "Phase Two sites." The areas it listed were:
- St. Croix: Sion Farm; William's Delight; Cane Bay; Cramer Park; Fort Croft; Divi Carina Bay.
- St. Thomas: Crown Bay; Addelita Cancryn Junior High School; Downtown Charlotte Amalie near Enid Baa Library and Fort Christian; Lucinda Millin Home area near Beltjen Road; Independent Boat Yard at Red Hook; Coki Point Beach; and Magens Bay Beach.
Lewis said that Fort Croft is in the Sprat Hall area of St. Croix, at a V.I. National Guard facility.
Sion Farm is inland.
The press release also quoted Lewis as saying:
"Completing the installation of the all-hazards siren warning system remains our top priority. The warning system is one of the most significant advancements we've made in planning for a catastrophic event,"
The release said that officials hope to complete the project by early next year.
It also notes that VITEMA is working on attaining TsunamiReady status for communities in the territory.
The statement said VITEMA anticipates that it will finish installing tsunami hazard zone and evacuation route signs territorywide within the next six months. The installation of the signs is one of two final requirements to achieve TsunamiReady status - a designation granted by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
The other requirement is developing tsunami evacuation maps. VITEMA currently is working to get federal funding to produce the maps, the statement said.
- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.