PHILIPSBURG – The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season officially began on June 1 and ends on November 30, and forecasters have predicted that the season will be an above average one. Regardless of the predictions it is always wise to be prepared.
721news spoke with St. Maarten Red Cross Disaster Coordinator Natasha Carty and Assistant Disaster Coordinator Travin Joseph about their preparations.
Carty and Joseph reported that at the moment they are making sure that everything is in place, and they have taken part in the necessary trainings, such as the HUREX (Hurricane Exercise). In addition, medical stock must always be ready; there must be a sufficient amount of drinking water, and survival kits.
“We can always use more drinking water,” said Carty. Carty also mentioned that the Red Cross has a procedure protocol structure along with various stakeholders that they adhere to. Everyone has their respective roles and responsibilities, and must wait on contact from the top for the go-ahead. Joseph stressed that all year the Red Cross takes part in disaster management by bringing awareness to the community.
As it relates to hurricanes, the St. Maarten Red Cross mans the government-designated shelters from a medical aspect along with the Government Departments of Community Development and Social Development. Volunteers are in place with the necessary passes in case of a curfew to move freely; shelter bags with medical supplies and survival items are always packed in advance and ready to go.
Registration of victims with their necessary needs after a disaster is extremely important in order to assist them efficiently. “In 2010 the Mega V system, which was used in Haiti after the earthquake was introduced, and I had a one-week training in Aruba on how to use the system as it relates to the needs of each family registered through the distribution of cards,” said Joseph.
The Mega V program will be able to track and analyze the needs of those registered. The Red Cross will be launching the Mega V program before October 2017 as it will be used later this year during training with the Overseas Branches.
721news asked Carty and Joseph if there are insufficient volunteers to assist in a disaster, what happens then. They explained that if there are not enough volunteers locally, then the Dutch Red Cross in the Netherlands is alerted, and volunteers come from the Dutch Caribbean islands or internationally. There is always a back-up of volunteers in place.
The St. Maarten Red Cross is always open to volunteers. “Volunteers must have a willing spirit, we offer a family setting, and you are not only helping others but also helping yourself, as you will know how to help all in case of an emergency. Communication is key, the right approach is significantly important for a Red Cross volunteer,” said Carty.
“Training is vital as a Red Cross volunteer and we encourage all volunteers to attend training locally and abroad,” she continued.
“There are always concerns, but once you have a dedicated team, it is worth it, and it is a value added experience. We are currently working on our structure, protocol and procedures, so that we have a more professional structured way of operating,” Carty informed.
Joseph stated that along with volunteered colleagues they motivate each other. “We are all proud community-minded individuals who love St. Maarten. Challenges are there, but it takes collaboration to overcome it all,” Joseph stated.
The Red Cross always accepts donations of clothing, material, toys, which can be dropped off at their location at 34 Airport Road, Simpson Bay.
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