The all-hazard sirens with repeaters that picked up VHF radio voice transmissions and emitted them over the speakers have been replaced and the system is again up and running, according to Elton Lewis, director of the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency.
Bronx Communications, the local representative for the siren system manufacturer, American Signal Corp., spent four days replacing 50-watt repeaters with 100-watts repeaters on sirens located on St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John. Bronx Communications and VITEMA also tested the system to ensure the speakers were no longer emitting the voice transmissions.
The repeaters receive signals and work to enhance the quality and the level of sound emitted through the siren speakers.
“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,'" Lewis said. "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."
VITEMA installed 10 all-hazards warning sirens across the Virgin Islands in June 2011 — four on St. Croix, four on St. Thomas and two on St. John — concentrating particularly on areas considered high-risk for tsunami, according to the statement from the authority. A tsunami could be generated and reach local coastlines within minutes if triggered by a major earthquake near or in the Virgin Islands region.
The sirens also provide tone and voice messages for hurricane, flooding and other hazards. The system is designed to warn anyone within its range outdoors of an imminent threat or danger.
Lewis also said VITEMA is nearing completion of a contract for the second phase of the All-Hazards Warning System, which includes 11 additional sirens to be divided between St. Thomas and St. Croix.
Phase Two sites include:
• St. Croix: Sion Farm, Williams Delight, Cane Bay, Cramer’s Park, Fort Croft, Divi Carina Bay.
• St.Thomas: Crown Bay, Addelita Cancryn Junior High School, Downtown Charlotte Amalie (near the BAA Library and Fort Christian), Lucinda Millin Home area (near Beltjen Road), Independent Boat Yard at Red Hook, Coki Point Beach, Megans Bay Beach.
“Completing the installation of the all-hazards siren warning system remains our top priority," Lewis said. "The warning system is one of the most significant advancements we’ve made in planning for a catastrophic event. We hope to complete the project by early next year and we remain on track for achieving tsunami-ready status for communities across the Virgin Islands.”
VITEMA anticipates completing the installation of tsunami hazard zone and evacuation route signs, territorywide, within the next six months. The tsunami signs were purchased earlier this year and the installation is one of two final requirements to achieve tsunami ready status, a designation granted by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
The other requirement is development of tsunami evacuation maps. VITEMA is currently working to secure federal funding to produce the maps.
Further information is available by calling Lewis at 1-340-773-2244.