June 16, 2021

Radio Cayman puts Radio Turks & Caicos back on air

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Radio Cayman recently stepped in to help the Turks & Caicos Islands, when the majority of the jurisdiction’s broadcast network was destroyed by Hurricane Irma.

Following high-level talks between the Cabinet Office and the government-owned radio station Radio Turks & Caicos (RTC), Radio Cayman’s senior technician flew into Provodenciales on Wednesday, 27 September 2017.

The broadcaster’s Electronics and Radio Frequency Engineer, Dean Bremmer, was later joined by two riggers from AVCOM Aviation Communications Ltd. on the eight-day assignment. A member of the Cayman Islands’ humanitarian aid mission, Mr. Bremmer spent his first day packing medical supplies.

The trio faced a daunting task. While the network in the capital island Grand Turk was only out for five hours, transmission in the islands of Provodenciales (Provo), North Caicos, Middle Caicos and South Caicos was compromised due to Irma. This outage was the first time in the station’s 45-year history that the islands had faced back-to-back mega storms.

The engineer’s first job was to conduct a detailed damage assessment. With the AVCOM operatives climbing the transmitters, he undertook essential repairs and installations to put the broadcaster and its three frequencies back on air.

“When our station’s Deputy Director Paulette Connolly, first asked for my help in heading the restoration assignment, I was both nervous and excited,” Mr. Bremmer confided. “A lot was evidently riding on our expertise and I had to go in blind as the station’s contractor had been unable to conduct even a cursory damage assessment as he was busy trying to get his own business back up and running.”

After speaking to RTC’s Director Christopher Jarrett, Mr. Bremmer travelled to each of the station’s three transmitters – located in Provo, Middle Caicos and South Caicos – to determine the extent of the damage to each 250-foot tower. These assessments were made possible due to courtesy Royal Navy helicopter flights across the islands. What the engineer discovered was quite sobering but unsurprising given the duration and ferocity of the Category 5 weather system.

The majority of RTC’s antennae and cables were ruined.

With a day to make the necessary repairs and installations at each location, the engineer had to find ingenious ways of making some of the repairs. His most challenging task was to find a way of getting audio through to the replaced transmitters. Once, he realised that RTC’s online streaming was still working, the engineer repurposed used pcs, installing them at each site.

With the essential repairs and replacements complete, RTC was fully back on-air after days of radio silence.

“Mr. Bremmer has made the Cayman Islands proud as have all of our humanitarian aid staff,” said Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin. “Their selfless support during this volatile hurricane season has helped thousands of individuals and has further strengthened our ties with other governments within the region.”

Deputy Governor Franz Manderson also praised Mr. Bremmer’s efforts. “This is another fine another example of our civil servants going above and beyond the call of duty,” he said. “In thanking AVCOM for its role, I see this is a great example of the private and public sector combining their expertise to support our neighbours.”

Cabinet Secretary Samuel Rose described Mr. Bremmer’s work in Turks & Caicos as providing a vital role in helping people cut off after Hurricane Irma.

“Public radio stations connect the Government to its people and more importantly, people to people,” he said. “They are beacons of hope and an essential resource for sharing vital information after a disaster. I am honoured to have such a dedicated and highly skilled civil servant like Dean as part of the Cabinet Office’s family.”

Radio Turks & Caicos was evidently just as pleased with the timely help.

“The team was very resourceful and were helpful in allowing us to mount new antennas and transmitters,” recalled RTC’s Director. “We are grateful to the Cayman Islands Government for its generous offer of assistance in helping a sister territory in need.”

The success of the mission means that Mr. Bremmer will continue to consult with RTC, helping find ways of further strengthening its network to withstand one of the worst hurricane seasons experienced in the Caribbean.

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