Coming Hurricane Season Prompts First WEA, EAS Test in U.S. Virgin Islands

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The U.S. Virgin Islands got the go-ahead from the FCC to conduct a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) and Emergency Alert System (EAS) test this Thursday, March 14. The Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) will conduct an end-to-end WEA test and a live code EAS test at 10 a.m. Atlantic Standard Time.

The VITEMA asked the agency for a waiver of its rules so it can take part in Caribe Wave 2019 – a Tsunami Warning Exercise. 

The purpose of this test is to ensure that WEA and EAS will work during natural and man-made emergencies such as tsunamis, hurricanes and acts of terrorism, as well as provide VITEMA with useful data to support local public warning improvements.

The Virgin Islands were devastated by two hurricanes in 2017, which “destroyed or severely damaged the territory’s telecommunications and broadcast infrastructure,” said the VITEMA in its request to the FCC. The Virgin Islands have been rebuilding their communications infrastructure, however the upcoming hurricane season begins June 1. The agency told the Commission, it needs to test and validate its Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) origination and distribution capabilities and “the participants’ ability to disseminate emergency messages to the public.”

The VITEMA also believes it’s imperative that emergency managers be proficient in WEA and EAS use before an actual alert is necessary. That’s why it doesn’t want to wait until new FCC rules kick-in May 1, allowing WEA end-to-end testing. The FCC agreed, and approved the waiver.

The VITEMA does not propose a backup date for the combined WEA and EAS test. However, VITEMA told the Commission, “if severe weather or a tropical system threatens the area within a day or two prior to the test,” VITEMA will consult with NOAA and FEMA “to consider cancellation.”  Comments? Email Us.    

March 12, 2019

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