VITEMA's tsunami siren fix isn't as far along as thought
Published: October 6, 2012
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V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency officials on Thursday provided incorrect information indicating their purchase of software to fix the territory's tsunami warning system was further along in the government's procurement process than it actually is.
The Daily News reported on Friday that the territory's tsunami early warning system is completely inoperable on St. Croix, while on St. Thomas, one siren is down, and on St. John, another siren is down.
In an interview for that article, VITEMA Director Elton Lewis said that a requisition had been issued to the V.I. Property and Procurement Department for a purchase order for software that will fix the problem. However, that information was incorrect, according to a statement VITEMA issued Friday, seeking to correct the mistake.
"This information was based what was provided to us by our Finance Division. However, we learned today that there was a miscommunication and that the purchase package is still within VITEMA's Finance Division," VITEMA spokeswoman Christine Lett said Friday in the prepared statement.
Officials said the problem with the tsunami warning system boils down to this: Whenever a microphone on VITEMA's radio system is keyed and words are spoken or sounds made, the transmission - whatever it might be - is broadcast over the affected sirens, which have been shut down because of the problem.
It was unclear Friday how long it would take for the paperwork to wind its way through the government process so that the sirens can be fixed. On Thursday, Lewis estimated it would take a week or two, but that was when he thought the procurement process was further along than it was.
It also was unclear Friday what exactly caused the problem with the siren system. The system was installed just more than a year ago.
On Thursday, Lewis said he did not know what caused the problem, and at one point, VITEMA referred media questions to its contractor, Bronx Communications.
The Daily News called Bronx Communications, the company that installed the system, on Friday. Bronx referred questions right back to VITEMA.
The Daily News posed those questions to Lett, who said she would contact Lewis to answer the questions.
However, no further information was forthcoming from VITEMA on Friday, and messages left for Lett on Friday evening were not returned.
The sirens are designed to alert residents if there is an impending tsunami so that they can flee to higher ground.
The 10 sirens comprising the territory's tsunami warning system are just the first segment of what officials hope will become a comprehensive system that will blanket the territory's entire shoreline. Right now, with only 10 sirens, only a few populous areas along the coastline in each island district are covered, even when the system is fully functional.
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