The Turks and Caicos Islands is now the proud owner of three Mobile Antenna Towers geared to ensure communication and radio broadcasting in a time of disaster.
One tower is based on Grand Turk, one in South Caicos and the other on Providenciales.
The official handing over ceremony of the towers was held at the Department of Disaster Management and Emergencies (DDME) on Monday, July 19, in the presence of Acting Governor Her Excellency Anya Williams and Minister for Immigration with responsibility for Disaster Management Hon. Arlington “Chuck” Musgrove.
Mark Wilkinson, Radio and Communications Manager at the DDME, said the antenna towers were developed from a specified type of aluminium pitched to withstand the corrosive environment, including the salt air.
He said the equipment comes with an air-conditioning unit and a 5-kilowatt generator that has the capability to power any facility that it is moved to. The antenna itself has the capacity to elevate to a height of over 100 feet.
Wilkinson, who deemed the handing over ceremony as a day of celebration, said that the acquisition of the pieces of equipment by the authorities speaks volume of their understanding of emergency management within these islands.
“To see a step like this, to procure such a critical piece of equipment within the midst of COVID-19, when we all worry about cash, it speaks volume about the Turks and Caicos. It speaks volume of what we see as a priority and as important as it relates to emergency within the Turks and Caicos Islands, as it relates to adaptation to our environment,” Wilkinson said.
He said the consideration by government to procure movable important equipment in times of hurricanes and other natural disasters is vital.
“We have to recognize the importance in such a step. We are the first in the Caribbean to take this step. We are the first in this region to not stand against the storm but to more so, adapt to the situation of a storm,” he asserted.
He describes the acquisition of the Mobile Antenna Towers as a big part of preparedness, saying such an emergency communication system enables the country to respond and recover faster in the wake of a natural disaster.
He said the equipment is also geared to support many other government sub-agencies and departments, such as Radio Turks and Caicos (RTC), the police force and the regiment.
Deputy Governor Williams, in welcoming the communication towers, pointed out that in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, communication was the one of the greatest obstacles. She recalled that after Irma, Grand Turk was completely cut from Providenciales, as it related to communication.
“Whenever we had a hurricane in these islands, one of the things that is affected the most is communication. Anyone can tell you what a problem it is, but the important thing is to find a solution,” she said.
“As we continue our preparedness, our response and our defence for hurricanes in these islands, it is important that we continue to take steps, as what we have taken today, to ensure that we procure the necessary equipment to aid in our defence.”
She described the acquisition of the towers as a very important investment.
“This is a major investment that the government has made. It is an important investment, we are one of the first in the region to do so, as we continue to be a leader rather than a follower in terms of our preparedness,” she said.
The acting governor pointed that in recent years the Turks and Caicos Islands communication has seen marked improvement.
For his part, Minister Musgrove expressed delight in the acquisition of the systems. He said the equipment would keep the Turks and Caicos Islands connected in times of disaster.
“I am proud that we are making progress in this critical area. While there is much work to be done, I am confident that we are building the foundation to develop a modern and reliable emergency system.
"I am extremely proud to see us investing in equipment that is mobile, which means that they can be deployed anywhere in the Turks and Caicos Islands,” he said, explaining the multi-functional equipment can be adjusted and stored at a safe location.
He said the procurement of the three antenna towers marked the first phase of improving communications in the Turks and Caicos Islands, asserting that three more antenna towers would be secured under the second phase. Of the three towers, one would be shipped to Salt Cay, another to North Caicos and the other for Middle Caicos.
“Emergency equipment is critical to the National Security and ability to manage disasters. The procurement of these antenna towers is a priority to the government, as we continue to enhance our capabilities and resilience in the Turks and Caicos Islands,” Minister Musgrove said.
For his part, Acting Director for the DDME, Mike Clerveaux, reminded the ceremony that this hurricane season is predicted to be another active one. Quoting National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which predicted that there would be up to 20 named storms this season, Clerveaux stated that up to 10 of those storms are likely to become hurricanes, five of which are forecast to become major storms.
The towers were developed by Aluma Towers, a company out of Florida, whose representative, David Kelly was on hand to bring greetings and demonstrate its capabilities.