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Preparing for storms | Hurricane shelter 101

Published:Thursday | June 23, 2016 | 6:13 AM
Evacuees huddle around a lantern at the National Arena shelter after a power cut during Hurricane Ivan on September 10, 2004.

Hurricanes and tropical storms are known for their immense power and ability to cause damage to our homes. If you live in an area where hurricane impact is customary, you should be aware of the nearest shelter as well as the safest route to get to that shelter in the event of  emergency.  Even before it reaches an emergency situation, shelters are normally open.

Once there is a hurricane warning, many shelters are opened and for good reasons. Officials don't want you travelling to a safe place during the passing of the dangerous hurricane or storm.

The Government of Jamaica, through the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), has designated several public facilities such as schools and community centres to act as places of shelters.

Useful Tips

In case you have to use one, here are some things you should know about hurricane shelters.

- A hurricane shelter will not be a comfortable home away from home. It is usually a solidly constructed building that provides a large and safe area from the impacting storm.

- Shelters tend to lack many comforts such as comfortable bedding and pillows. Consider bringing your own.

- Locations can change from year to year - keep informed through television, radio and your local ODPEM office.

- Be prepared to live with strangers in close quarters for the duration of the storm. Leave your valuables in a safe place at home or in a bag that is always on your person.

- Take a picture ID with you to the shelter whenever possible.

- Shelters are not day care, so you will need to supervise your child/children.

- Most shelters do not have a shower, so take a bath and eat before leaving home.

- All locations require that you register immediately upon entering.

- Most are not accommodating of pets, so find a pet-friendly relative or other safe place for your animal.

- Don't bring electronic devices that need to be plugged in. Consider that someone must pay that light bill when you have gone. Opt instead for battery-powered radios and perhaps small televisions.

Before you leave home for the shelter, you will need to pack water, food, clothing, bedding and personal items, medications, first-aid supplies, important papers as well as miscellaneous items like flashlights and batteries. These items are extreme essential during your stay at the shelter.

If your home is vulnerable or located in an area that is considered to be vulnerable, you should make a special effort to relocate to a designated shelter until after the passage of the storm. During the hurricane season, safety should be a priority. Shelters may not provide you with the level of comfort you require, but it might be enough to save your life or that of a family member.