More than 130 volunteers responded to the civic call of duty, and participated in two nights of intense training in their bids to work in the hurricane shelters in a voluntary capacity.
The annual pre-hurricane season training prepares volunteers to qualify as shelter-management team members - and, if enlisted, they will work alongside designated officials in their respective districts in Grand Cayman.
Early in the training session, Shelter Operations Subcommittee Chairperson Deanna Look Loy made clear the purpose of providing shelter during a disaster.
"It's not about comfort, but about preserving life," she emphasised. Persons who feel that their homes are not safe are encouraged to go to the shelter nearest them.
"Children, the sick, and the elderly will take priority" in receiving shelter accommodations, she noted. Despite the fact that shelters are usually full at the height of a storm, the volunteers were told that late arrivals should not be turned away, unless opening the doors would pose a danger to those already inside.
Encouraged to "provide the best services possible," shelter volunteers primarily help to maintain order and activity records.
Their roles also can range from providing reassurance, to enlisting the help of shelterees, when practical, in areas such as manning radios, supervising children and keeping the shelter clean. Volunteers also are expected to know how to access and control equipment, such as generators, and the shelters' electricity and water connections.
Shelter Operations is a subcommittee of Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI). During the training, HMCI Director McLeary Frederick welcomed and encouraged the volunteers, some of whom have served in previous years.
Mr. Frederick's staff trained the wardens on use of radios and demonstrated new technology used in scanning passports as a part of the registration process, while overall guidance was provided by Mrs. Look Loy, along with Shelter Operations Deputies Jen Dixon and Deborah Webb-Sibblies; and Disaster Services Coordinator Lynda Mitchell.
They outlined the structure of the shelter management teams: For each shelter, there is a manager, a deputy manager and support staff. However, all members were encouraged to operate as a united, all-island team, which proved beneficial in recent years, especially in the sharing of information and resources.
Each shelter will also be staffed with Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officers, and personnel from the Health Service Authority; a Department of Environmental Health Officer and the Cayman Islands Red Cross medical personnel will be in all of the Emergency Medical Centres. Persons from these and other supporting agencies, such as the Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA), also attended the training session.
In addition to team structure, trainees were given a sense of shelter conditions. There will be no room for luxury, they were told. For example, because shelterees will have only about 15 sq. ft. of space, just enough space for themselves and their personal belongings, air mattresses, pets or other conveniences will be not allowed.
There are essential items that persons should bring to shelters. These include sanitary items, important documents, funds for post-hurricane expenditures, and medicine. Each shelteree also should bring enough food for himself or herself, plus any dependents, to last three days, as food will not be provided for them.
The food must be non perishable as cooking is not allowed in the shelters.
Shelter Operations officials shared that over the past year the equipment at 12 local shelters has been enhanced with new, upgraded generators. The four other shelters have operating generators, but will be enhanced in the future.
The shelter teams' training followed the Hurricane Dan tabletop exercise of the country's readiness plans.
Sidebar: 'Class A' shelters are buildings which are safe for sheltering during a natural disaster. 'Class A' shelter capacities, in the respective districts, are:
West Bay - 795 people
George Town - 2,530 people
Savannah - 135 people
Bodden Town - 80 people
Breakers - 40 people
North Side - 185 people
East End - 570 people
Cayman Brac - 825, and
Little Cayman - 140 people.
For a list of all shelters and their locations, as well as more hurricane-related information, visit HMCI's website, http://www.gov.ky.