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Essential services need toll-free numbers – De Riggs

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A call has been made for toll-free numbers to be linked to essential services and disaster management agencies here. The issue was raised by Donald De Riggs, Director of the Rainbow Radio League Inc during the interactive programme, ‘Face to Face’, with NBC Programme Director Colvin Harry, on Monday, August 6, 2018.

De Riggs said that agencies such as NEMO and Red Cross should be provided with toll-free numbers in order to allow persons who have phones, but who may have run out of credit, to make calls to these agencies. He also added that the same should be done for the general hospital, VINLEC, the CWSA, the Coast Guard and the Police HQ. For example, a person may be electrocuted after leaning on a utility pole with a faulty ground connection, and a person nearby may have a phone but is unable to place a call to the hospital and/or the VINLEC Hotline because he or she has insufficient funds. However, if VINLEC has a toll-free number, then anyone can call that number whether or not they have credit, much like the 457-1901, which is FLOW’s toll-free number.

A caller to the ‘Face to Face’ programme lamented that whenever he tries to call 911, or the police, he rarely gets an answer, and in the few cases where he has been successful, the process has proven to be tedious. In responding to that caller, it was suggested that more persons be employed to respond to 911 calls, which can include persons from the YES programme. 911 lines, by virtue of the nature of that service, NEED to be staffed 24/7.

The programme focussed on emergency communications as a viable back-up to other means of communications, such as cell phones and landlines. In the aftermath of any major natural disaster, cell phones’ service can be disrupted and it is during these times that the flow of information is critical to the survival of victims and the protection of property.This is where two-way radio proves its worth.

During the programme, a demonstration was held which allowed radio operators to call in to the programme and be patched to the live broadcast. This is useful in times of national emergencies, where radio operators in the field can connect directly with NBC Radio and provide live reports in the absence of telephones.

Due to time constraints a follow up program will be held to continue the discussion.

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