RTC FM adopts new systems, technologies for crisis management

13 September 2022

Turks & Caicos’ national radio broadcaster has joined stakeholders in developing a new weather reporting system for the region as part of its crisis management function.

Hurricane season is underway for many across the Caribbean. During this time, the weather is watched extremely closely. In recent weeks, Radio Turks & Caicos (RTC) has been involved in preliminary discussions around the development of a new national meteorological strategy to improve the island nation’s crisis management and resilience against extreme weather events.

“There is talk of seeing how we can integrate the needs of the TCIAA Meteorological Department and the Department of Disaster Management and Emergencies and all stakeholders, including media, into a national information system, so there is greater use and dissemination of weather information,” Damian Wilson, Deputy Director, RTC, told the Public Media Alliance (PMA). While this is “quite some way off from being functional”, Mr. Wilson confirmed that the discussions are serious “and involve regional and international agencies.”

A multistakeholder approach is essential when it comes to public media’s preparedness during extreme weather events. This was discussed during PMA’s latest PSM Unpacked roundtable forum, where PMA members joined virtually to discuss the vital role that public media play during times of crisis and emergencies. In some cases, especially island nations, national public media organisations tend to be the only media still operating following significant damage to infrastructure. During such instances, they have a responsibility to provide citizens with potentially life-saving information.

Read more: PSM Unpacked | PMA members discuss emergency broadcasting

“As the national broadcaster, RTC plays a critical role in crises and emergencies. We are the primary distribution point for official government information. We air all official government messages, press conferences, etc. through our radio network but also social media and our website. During hurricane season we distribute key messages for the Department of Disaster Management & Emergencies (DDME), and it is established practice that during any impact by storm systems, the public listens to RTC for weather updates and official information as other forms of communication, such as the internet and mobile, are usually more severely impacted.”

In recent years, the use of new and innovative technologies has also played an even greater role in RTC’s crisis management function, which is part of the national communications apparatus. While Mr. Wilson confessed that RTC’s “adaption to this hasn’t been as fast as we would like as an organisation” since “we’re asking people to work in a different way than they’re used to, and change takes time”, he also emphasised that the “now necessary use of social media as an information dissemination and public engagement tool has probably been the biggest shift for the organisation over the years. Also, finding the right equipment at cost-effective levels is key.”

As Mr. Wilson concluded, it is increasingly important to have access to a source of trusted information, especially “in this age of disinformation, misinformation…” It is equally important that public media organisations have stable and secure funds to invest in innovative, robust crisis management infrastructure to carry out their public service remits.

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