Feature: Seek Shelter at your Own Risk

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No guarantee can be given that any building will remain standing or be habitable after a devastating storm, hurricane or other hazard or disaster.

This is a key message contained in the emergency shelters booklet 2013, and being conveyed to Barbadians who may seek shelter away from home this hurricane season.

In the foreword of the text, entitled Shelters, Chief Shelter Warden, Laurie King, reiterates that persons who seek refuge in shelters ???do so at their own risk??? without guarantee. He further noted that it is for this reason persons are advised to remain in their own homes or seek refuge in the dwellings of friends or relatives or in neighbouring buildings, considered to be structurally sound.??

???If you plan to remain at home, a strong room, preferably located downstairs in the middle of the house should be chosen,??? Mr. King stressed. Individuals are, however, reminded that in case they have to leave their homes, emergency kits should be prepared and non-perishable food items procured to last for at least three days.

Going to a shelter means that residents/non-residents must observe the stipulated regulations. Firstly, understanding that the Senior Warden is the supreme authority in the shelter and that his/her decision is final, is critical.??

Additionally, when called upon occupants of a shelter must assist in its operation and cooperate to the best of their ability. And, if a State of Emergency is proclaimed at any time in the country, all persons will be subject to orders made under the Emergency Management Act 2006-20 and will be liable for such penalties as may be imposed for failure to comply.

With regard to personal behaviours and actions, no indecent or unsocial behaviour including violence, profane language or drunkenness will be tolerated and the consumption of alcohol or other such beverages is forbidden. Moreover, no firearms, offensive weapons or smoking of any kind is allowed and persons found defacing or in any way damaging the facility, its furniture and other equipment will be prosecuted.??

Shelter facilities are mainly schools and churches located across the island and are listed in two categories. Category One Shelters are those which may be used during a hurricane or other hazard event, while Category Two Shelters may be used if they are still in a reasonable condition after the occurrence of a hazard event or disaster.

Most primary and secondary schools are on the list and are registered showing among others how many persons can be accommodated and the availability of a water tank. However, with 17 schools slated for repairs this year, the public may find that some of them which were listed in previous booklets are not among this year???s shelters. The Ministry???s annual civil works are done during the school???s summer vacation and it is expected that some schools will be unavailable as shelters.

The emergency shelters also take into consideration the needs of the disabled with 11 of them equipped with bathrooms allowing access for the physically challenged, particularly those using wheelchairs. These are the Coleridge and Parry School; St. Christopher Primary; St. Leonard???s Boys??? Secondary School; Cuthbert Moore Primary; Gordon Greenidge Primary; St. Bernard???s Primary; Roland Edwards Primary; Ignatius Byer Primary; George Lamming Primary; Blackman and Gollop Primary; and Dalkeith Methodist Church.??

Individuals interested in finding out about the nearest shelter in their community should pay close attention to information placed on the internet, radio and television and in the print media throughout the hurricane season.??

With the Meteorological Office and the Department of Emergency Management warning against complacency, it is imperative that citizens and businesses begin to contemplate their own shelter readiness, at this time.

joy-ann.gill@barbados.gov.bb

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