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Emergency Situation? V.I. Schools Will be First to Know

Nov. 20, 2007 — By the first of December public schools across the territory will be equipped with special emergency-warning radios, courtesy of a program unveiled Tuesday at Leonard Dober Elementary School.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is donating an emergency weather radio to every public school — and eventually all schools — in the territory as part of a national program that will reach 97,000 schools nationwide. The radio provides an around-the-clock warning system about emergencies, weather-related and otherwise.
"If there were an amber alert for a missing child … the Virgin Islands has the option to activate the emergency-radio system," said Rafael Mojica, warning coordination meteorologist for NOAA. "If there's a toxic spill on St. Croix, the weather radio would be another vehicle to alert people."
The radio does not simply broadcast alerts, but comes with warning lights that visually signify an alert is in effect: green for a weather advisory, yellow for a weather watch and a red light accompanied by an audible alarm in the event of a weather warning, which means danger is imminent.
The same three-tiered system would be activated for non-weather-related emergencies. Designated governmental departments such as the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) will have access to specialized computer software to broadcast emergency bulletins in addition to those issued by the National Weather Service.
The specialized radio can be purchased at electronic and other stores in the territory, Mojica said, and he recommends that all homes have one, referencing recent weather-related disasters on the mainland.
"Many lives would have been saved if, in the middle of the night, people had a NOAA weather radio in their bedrooms," he said.
Lisa Hassell-Forde, superintendent of St. Thomas and St. John Schools, is responsible for distributing the radios. She intends to have them up and running in all 38 public schools by Dec. 1.
Adjutant General Renaldo Rivera said he anticipates that parochial and public schools within the territory will receive NOAA radios early in the new year.
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