Basseterre, St. Kitts, September 27, 2017 (SKNIS): Deputy National Disaster Coordinator, Claricia Langley-Stevens, has informed that the hurricane shelters in the federation are strategically chosen and properly managed, as these are two important elements in preparation for disaster management.
“Our shelters are not just handpicked. There is a national committee that is chaired by the permanent secretary of housing and they have the responsibility to identify suitable spaces including privately owned facilities, as well as the government’s community centers,” she said while appearing on Wednesday’s (September 27) edition of “Working for You” to discuss the importance of preparing for any disaster and the way forward once impacted.
The deputy national disaster coordinator explained that in choosing suitable spaces, they must first be assessed because there is a certain criteria that all shelters must follow.
“It must be constructed in a particular way and must be able to withstand up to a category 4 hurricane. It must also have water storage facilities and so these are some of the things that we look at in terms of a building being approved for sheltering purposes,” she said.
She said that volunteers are trained as shelter managers and placed in each facility to man them. These persons she added, dedicate their time ensuring that the shelters are equipped with the necessary things needed to accommodate persons and to give them the level of assurance and security that they will be safe in the facilities.
Mrs. Langley-Stevens spoke to the activation of shelters, adding that persons are of the view that shelters are only for hurricane, and this has proven to be a myth. She explained that once a shelter has to be activated due to the flooding of a community one will be activated. She said as it relates to the hurricane season, it has not been the practice of St. Kitts and Nevis to open shelters before the island is impacted.
“And so the government has decided that prior to a storm approaching St. Kitts and Nevis, we will activate a few shelters, not all, and they are going to be strategically located within each district around the island,” said the deputy national disaster coordinator. “And what that does, it provides an opportunity for persons who feel that they are vulnerable or their homes may not withstand what type of winds the storm will deposit on St. Kitts and Nevis or rain as the case may be, that their homes may not be well-suited to absorb all of that, and so as a precautionary measure they venture to the shelters.”
She added that the shelters also cater to vulnerable groups such as persons who are homeless and everyone is welcome. She stated however, that the opening of a shelter is not a National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) decision, as it is done from a mitigation level. The Mitigation Council of St. Kitts and Nevis is chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister, the Honourable Shawn Richards, by virtue of the post that he holds.
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