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URCA developing disaster preparedness plan focused on ICT sector

The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) will step in to provide disaster relief by developing a disaster preparedness and management initiative for the information and communications technology (ICT) sector in The Bahamas.

Natural disasters that proved to be costly for the government like Hurricanes Matthew and Joaquin

underscore the regulator’s attempt to ensure that communication units before, throughout, and after storms are effective.

The project was scheduled to commence in 2016, but due to “human resource shortages” it has been delayed to the beginning of 2017 and should be completed in September to December 2017.

In its 2017 Annual Draft Plan URCA explained that the project would “ensure that critical communications remain operational when disaster strikes”.

“In October 2015, Hurricane Joaquin made landfall in The Bahamas and had a devastating impact on the southeastern islands of The Bahamas, particularly Crooked Island, Acklins, Long Island and San Salvador.

“Along with physical damage to infrastructure and personal property, the breakdown of essential communications in some parts of these islands occurred as a result of this hurricane.

“Communications services are vital to the dissemination of early warnings, emergency response and disaster relief efforts,” said URCA.

Acting CEO and Director of Policy & Regulation at URCA Stephen Bereaux told Guardian Business yesterday that URCA would now provide a regulatory role in disaster-related matters.

He pointed out that National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) already plays a significant role in providing updates to residents during and after a storm.

Bereaux explained that the project would ensure there is a properly coordinated approach for information and communications technology to be used effectively during a disaster.

URCA would exercise where necessary its regulatory role to ensure that ICT providers and utilities are at the table. Some things that will be reviewed include free messaging, making sure appropriate systems are in place for information to get back and forth, and finding people during disasters.

He noted that a lot of that work is being done on an international level with bodies that URCA is involved with, like the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

“There is a lot of great technology that can be used to assist during an emergency,” Bereaux noted.


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