Shelter Managers in St. Elizabeth have been proactive in their preparation for the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which lasts from June 1 to November 30.
Over the past month, Shelter Managers throughout the parish have been busy engaging in shelter management forums and training exercises as well as stockpiling resources as the hurricane season approaches its peak period from August to October.
Forecasters have predicted the formation of 13 to 19 named storms, of which six to 10 could become hurricanes.
St. Elizabeth currently stands ready with approximately 200 Managers to serve more than 94 official shelters.
At a shelter management forum held at the St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in Santa Cruz, St. Elizabeth, on July 10, Shelter Manager for the Lewisville High School in the New Market area, Clinton Barrett, told JIS News that his aim is to be as well prepared as possible.
He added that this year’s preparation is particularly important given the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We have to follow the protocols of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, and to do the physical distancing and whatever else we have learned from this session today. We have to implement those, because this is a new pandemic that has never been here before. We have to take these into consideration and move forward,” he said.
Mr. Barrett has been a Shelter Manager for more than 20 years, a period over which his expertise was put on full display through several tropical cyclones, to include Hurricanes Ivan and Sandy.
“After the [Hurricane Ivan] announcement, I went there and opened the shelter, and after the preparations we had a lot of people coming in. Fifteen persons came and stayed for two and half days at the shelter. I think that the experience was good,” he said.
Mr. Barrett noted that with the support of the Parish Disaster Coordinator and other stakeholders, he continues to volunteer his service and has his shelter ready for the good of his community.
“Yes, this [year] with COVID-19 it is a little different, but I will go back and implement what we have learned today and put it in place,” he said.
Another Shelter Manager, Godfrey Watson, has been volunteering in the role for more than 10 years. A minister of religion, he is the Shelter Manager for the Providence Baptist Church located in Hodgesland.
He indicated that Shelter Managers play an important role locally and should not be overlooked in planning for any disaster.
“We are not just talking about hurricanes but any form of disaster. We should not be overlooked,” he said.
Mr. Watson lauded the shelter management forums and refresher exercises. which incorporated prevention and control measures of COVID-19. He said the sessions are proof of their value in the parish.
“We are the most important persons outside of our Coordinator, because without the Shelter Managers, persons who would have been affected wouldn’t have anywhere to go or no coordination,” Mr. Watson said.
Shelter Manager for the New Town Family Community Centre, Juliet Johnson, told JIS News that she learned many new things from the recent forum and will be implementing the new guidelines as part of safety measures.
“I learned how to better manage and take care of my shelter,” said Ms. Johnson.
Several pieces of equipment, such as water boots and raincoats, were recently donated to Shelter Managers in the parish.
The shelter management forums were organised by the St. Elizabeth Municipal Corporation, in partnership with the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) and the St. Elizabeth Health Department.