15 Oct 2020

New disaster messaging system for Fiji

4:25 pm on 15 October 2020

A new messaging system has been launched in Fiji to ensure people can evacuate swiftly during natural disasters.

The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) launched its 'Find my Evacuation Centre' messaging system on Tuesday, saying disasters such as cyclones demanded a quick response of accurate information from the authorities to the public.

Nasau village is still shattered.

Nasau village was shattered after Cyclone Winston in 2016 Photo: RNZ / Alex Perrottet

Director Vasiti Soko said the Short Message Service or SMS would be used to deliver communication to Fijians during disasters.

Soko said with the cyclone season on the horizon, the service would help people identify their nearest evacuation centre and also locate the nearest disaster management officials.

She said the messaging toolkit would also provide safety measures that can be followed during a disaster.

"Preparedness saves lives," she said.

"Introducing such a tool, we hope that we can improve the ability of people to move to the nearest evacuation centre when threats are starting to come their way."

Soko said the system would also assist people to prepare for the weather.

"As we near the cyclone season, the NDMO will be providing awareness materials which will create behavioural changes and preparedness to help Fijians."

Fiji's Agriculture Minister Inia Seruiratu

Fiji's Agriculture Minister Inia Seruiratu Photo: Alex Perrottet / RNZ

The Minister for Disaster Management, Inia Seruiratu, said the new system also ensures Fijians are kept updated with what's happening around them.

Seruiratu said Fijians must be equipped with vital information before and when a disaster strikes.

"Every Fijian knows how important that mission must be as we are already experiencing cyclones in Fiji," the minister said.

"Winston may have broken records in 2016 but the next unprecedented superstorm could strike anytime of the year so we must be prepared every time everywhere."

Seruiratu said the new system would also help improve the department's disaster planning and adaptation process.

To start using the service, people can text EC to 132877.