PHILIPSBURG – Hurricanes are natural disasters that constantly threaten the Caribbean islands, especially St. Maarten “as we are right in the center of the hurricane belt. We saw the first real destruction of them on September 5, 1995 when Hurricane Luis almost wiped out the whole island,” a Rotary Sunrise statement said. The best way to secure yourself is having a disaster plan ready.
With this in mind, President of the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunrise Okama Brook, invited Secretary General of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour and Coordinator for Emergency Shelters Joy Arnell, and Policy Advisor at Department of Social Development Mark Schloss, to make a presentation to its members. The presentation’s aim is to raise awareness, and inform the community about the basics of how to prepare for a hurricane and what to expect at a shelter.
Arnell noted that “shelters are not hotels and should only be used as an ultimate solution. People should be prepared to stay home, if necessary or turn to family, friends and neighbors before going to a shelter. During a hurricane, there are places in the house that are safer than others such as bathrooms, bathtubs and garages if you are not able to go out of the house.”
She also informed that although all shelters have back up from Red Cross and the police, there is often very little control over who comes in, jeopardizing safety of those who are there. Another thing to also keep in mind is that the electricity and water affects the shelters as much as any other property. The impact of this is reduced sanitation as bathrooms (which are limited) will also be operational to a certain degree and will be dirty.
“When you come to a shelter, make sure you have enough supplies for you and your family for at least three days. The best way to make it easy for you to have everything you need at a moment’s notice is to have a disaster bag ready,” she concluded.
Schloss then explained to members the essentials that have to be in the bag. The bag itself should be ready before the hurricane season and kept in a place where one can quickly pick it up and leave. The following are some of the most essential items that need to be in your emergency bag:
- Water – 2 liters per person per day for at least 3 days.
- Food – nonperishables such as canned food and energy bars for at least 3 days.
- First aid kit, which should include bandages of different sizes, rubbing alcohol, antibiotic cream, painkillers and any other important medication that the family needs.
- Windup radio to keep yourself updated at all times.
- Light source – candles and matches, windup flashlight, glow stick that needs no external source of energy to start it.
- Toilet paper.
- Extra set of clothing for everyone in the family.
- An all-in-one tool that can be used, which should include scissors, knife, screwdriver.
- All important documents in an airtight/watertight plastic bag.
It was also suggested that after the disaster try to keep a normal routine as much as possible especially if you have children. Bring along games and books to keep them busy so that they don’t feel the gravity of the situation.
Following are the shelters in St. Maarten if the situation does arise:
DISTRICT 1: Sister Marie Laurence School. Address: Ellis Drive #1, Middle Region;
DISTRICT 2: New Testament Baptist Church. Address: Cannegieter Street, Philipsburg;
DISTRICT 3: Milton Peters College: Address: L.B. Scott Road, Cul-de-Sac; Rupert Maynard Youth Community Center. Address: St. Peters Road; St. Maarten Academy. Address: Cupper Drive, Cul-de-Sac;
DISTRICT 4: Leonard Conner School. Address: Venus Road, Cay Bay; the Salvation Army. Address: Union Road #59, Cole Bay; Christian Fellowship Church. Address: Welfare Road, Cole Bay;
DISTRICT 5: Allan C. Halley Community Center. Address: Simpson Bay Road, Simpson Bay.
The Rotary Club of St. Martin has its own Disaster Management Plan 2016-2017, and Committee headed by Rotarian Dr. Virginia Asin-Oostburg. President Brook thanked Arnell and Schloss for this very educational presentation, and requested they continue to keep the club updated on relevant information in order to remain abreast of latest developments in disaster management. She also thanked members of the Sunrise Disaster Committee including Prakash Peter Dialani, Damali Bryson, Siddarth Cookie Bijlani, Dolly Sadarangani-Ahuja and Kameela Piper.
For more information the Rotary Club meetings are held every Tuesday morning from 7:00am- 8:00am at the Gingerbread Café at Belair Hotel.