Broadcaster Beverly Lewis is an experienced Grenadian journalist currently attached to ZBVI Radio in Tortola, BVI.
Lewis was part of the news crew covering Hurricane September 6 and 7, and in the days following the devastation.
She says upon receiving information on the path of the hurricane, the station took urgent action to secure its infrastructure.
“We ensured that the 300 foot antenna was strapped down which would have allowed us to remain on air throughout the hurricane,” she says. “We also ensured the digital recorders had sufficient batteries, reinforced our doors and placed sand bags at the entrance.”
The task involved preparations for extended operating hours that would ensure an on-air presence around the clock – “something not usually done.”
“We also had additional updates apart from the regular newscast, while ensuring there was sufficient food and water for staff working through the hurricane,” Lewis adds.
She says a relatively inexperienced team meant that staff were “excited somewhat, yet curious of the possible impact.”
Describing the working environment during the event, Lewis describes the situation as having been “frantic.”
“Staff was really frightened, there were screams, persons were also worried about their loved ones left at home as at that point the communication system was down,” she says.
One member of staff was injured as a galvanize sheet tore through the station’s glass door. The staffer received a cut on his face under his eyes and a cut on the hand which required 50 stiches.
“Water came in the transmitter room which cause us to lose signal,” she says, “and the antenna was slightly bent.”
Asked about the quality of coverage offered during and after the hurricane, Lewis said she feels good about the coverage, especially since “we were the only station providing that kind of coverage.”
“We reached all homes in the Virgin Islands on the AM dial,” she says. “We had frequent updates especially from the Director at the Department of Disaster Management.”
“People really looked forward to us for coverage, and when the station went off this is when people realised how serious this hurricane was.”
Lewis also offers advice to journalists confronting a similar situation. “Prepare, prepare and brace for the worst. However, don’t be daunted. It may be hard especially if you lose equipment and homes but remember this will pass.”