MARIGOT–President Daniel Gibbs said Wednesday the Collectivité’s objective is to triple the current capacity of hurricane shelters from 500 persons currently to some 1,700 ahead of this year’s fast approaching hurricane season.
Some 10 public and private buildings have been earmarked as shelters, many of them schools. The Collectivité has set aside 1.7M euros in its 2018 budget for preparing and equipping shelters for the safety of the population. But he noted the long-term vision is to have three major multi-risk hurricane shelters that can accommodate 3,500 persons.
Shelters need to be more self-sufficient and operational with generators, working toilets, food and water etc. Similarly, partner intervention and emergency procedures (telecommunications, water, electricity, health, security, donations, distribution, reception of disaster victims, medical evacuations, etc.) will be communicated prior to the start of the season.
Asked about the possibility of mandatory evacuation of high risk areas such as Sandy Ground and Baie Nettle, Gibbs replied: “As we did for Irma we will sign agreements with certain operators to transport people to shelters. In each district there will be a point assigned for a bus to collect people to go to a shelter if they need to.”
Among the so-far designated shelters are the schools Emile Choisy, Evelina Halley, St. Clair Maximin, Marie-Amélie Leydet, Hervé Williams, Marie-Antoinette Richards, and Cité Scolaire.
With 52 days to go before the next hurricane season begins on June 1, Préfète Déléguée Anne Laubies, and President Gibbs convened the press conference to review the preparations for the hurricane season, a major challenge for the Préfecture and the Collectivité.
As soon as the crisis came to an end after Hurricane Irma, joint work to prepare the next season was carried out by the State services and the local expert services under the authority of the Préfète and the President, to improve the existing planning system while learning from the consequences of Irma. Many meetings were held on the subject involving private and public actors.
A steering committee has been set up and has already met twice. The services have structured themselves better to respond to a future crisis, in particular by bringing their operational decision-making centres closer together, Gibbs explained.
Preparedness for this hurricane season involves three main themes spread over the next two months starting with an individual and collective preparation to clean up the territory, disposing of waste and bulky materials and removing or storing any items that can turn into dangerous projectiles during a storm.
All individuals are responsible for preparation of emergency first aid kits, gathering water and food supplies in good time and selecting a “safe” room to retreat into if necessary.
Throughout the month of May, the Collectivité will embark on a clean-up of the territory district by district, however, Gibbs stressed that citizens must play their part as the Collectivité and State cannot do it all alone. Some 30,000 euros has been budgeted for clean-up, installing of skips and bins, purchasing of materials, equipment, gloves etc.
“There will be one day when the population can take their green waste or bulky items to the eco-landfill in Cul-de-Sac, free of charge,” Gibbs said.
Warning the population is a crucial point in crisis management, whether in the context of hurricane risk or other natural hazards such as earthquake and tsunami. Alerting the population will be carried out in several ways: via social networks, Facebook pages of the Préfecture or the Collectivité, or via the newly created Twitter account of the Préfecture. The Collectivité has also developed a mobile application dubbed “My City” on which a great deal of information will be disseminated to the public.
Press releases will be sent out via local media. The media is essential for relaying information to the population in the context of the alerts. It was confirmed also that SMS messages from the Préfecture will be used as an instantaneous alert method. These will go out to local authorities, all institutions and stakeholders, and to citizens who want to sign up. The latter system is currently being put in place.
Préfète Laubies spoke of alert sirens but this is for the future. Implementation studies will be launched by the Collectivité, however, the commissioning period is two to three years.
“This is a costly system that has to be studied carefully in terms of where they are located for maximum listening effect,” Gibbs indicated. “I think by 2019 we will know where we are with this system.”
Another alert method is the old-fashioned use of megaphones mounted on top of vehicles. Gendarmes, border police and territorial police will patrol through districts issuing warnings. Implementation of these warning systems was tested during the CaribWave exercise on March 15. A defence operational centre had been opened and all the players mobilised.
In order to make the communication systems more resilient and enable them to be quickly recharged with electricity, the Préfecture and the local authority are working on mapping the sensitive points of the territory, in particular the antenna and telephone exchange sites.
Mapping will identify all the sensitive points of the territory, – energy, commerce, banks, pharmacy – and this with an objective of organization and projection of the means of civil security and public security.
In addition to the work undertaken by the local authorities, the Préfète and President are already inviting the population to prepare and anticipate as much as possible the passage of a possible hurricane.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/75543-collectivite-aiming-to-triple-hurricane-shelter-capacity