Bahamas Social Services conduct training for hurricane shelter managers

NASSAU, The Bahamas

Minister of Social Services and Community Development the Hon. Melanie Griffin, recently urged volunteers at a shelter management training workshop that their willingness to go beyond the call of duty in a national crisis by serving as shelter managers during hurricanes, was not only exemplary, but indicative of what national service and sacrifice is all about.

As shelter managers, yours is a most important role once those shelters have been activated (because) each person in that shelter looks to you for guidance and your response could mean the difference between life and death, said Minister Griffin.

‘Your presence here today, participating in this training, is indicative of your preparedness to serve and I wish to thank you for responding so unselfishly. You are demonstrating your willingness to go beyond the call of duty in a national crisis,’ the Minister added.

The shelter managers course was conducted over a three-day period by instructors from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, led by Chief Petty Officer Howard Bosfield, and covered areas such as shelter management and basic first aid, in addition to basic communications and firefighting techniques.

Minister Griffin said her ministry, which was given responsibility for shelter management in 2004, has already identified 30 facilities throughout New Providence which will serve as shelters in the event a hurricane impacts parts or all of the island.

Facilities have also been identified, inspected and approved as shelters in the Family Islands.

Minister Griffin said one of the first acts her ministry undertook upon taking over shelters and shelter management in The Bahamas, was to establish a shelter management team headed by Mr. Alan Strachan, Under Secretary in the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development.

She said the committee began meeting in April, 2005, to identify, inspect and approve possible facilities that could be used as shelters during the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

The committee consists of personnel from the Department of Social Services, the Royal Bahamas Defense Force, Royal Bahamas Police Force, Bahamas Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Ministry of Works and the Department of Environmental Health Services. Their job is to ensure that the shelters meet a number of pre-determined standards.

Under Secretary Strachan said the committee has worked ‘tirelessly’ to ensure that buildings are structurally sound; that there are adequate indoor bathroom and water facilities in place; that the buildings are not located in flood plains; that they are not located in proximity to potential hazards and that there is ample water storage capabilities in place to facilitate accommodating persons over a period of between three and seven days.

He said the evaluation and inspection covered a number of additional areas, including sanitation and vector control, accessibility for persons living with disabilities, emergency power capabilities and firefighting capabilities, among others.

Minister Griffin lauded the Bahamas Red Cross and the Royal Bahamas Defense Force for the leading role both organizations have played in shelter management in the past.

I want to especially thank Ms. Marina Glinton, along with her staff and volunteers for the tremendous job they have done over the years and continue to do, said Minister Griffin. I must add that the Royal Bahamas Defense Force also plays a major role in shelter management and their involvement is invaluable and much appreciated.

Minister Griffin told the shelter managers that The Bahamas geographical location makes their job a vital one as that location places the country in the direct paths of hurricanes.

For six months out of the year we are under constant threat of becoming the target of hurricanes, said Minister Griffin. Indications are that the seasons are changing and forecasters are predicting that we are in for a period of active, intense hurricanes which we hope does not occur. I cannot over-emphasize the impact your roles as shelter managers can and will have on our citizens who have to use these facilities.

Minister Griffin also encouraged Bahamians throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth to continue to make preparations for the hurricane season.

Already it has been predicted that 15 named storms will develop this season, eight of which are expected to become hurricanes and four of which are anticipated will be of Category 4 strength, said Minister Griffin.

The watchword for all citizens therefore is preparedness. Do not wait until the last minute to begin stocking up on necessary items, which include non-perishable canned goods, hygiene supplies, batteries, flashlights and battery operated radios and so on. Start doing whatever you can now, Mrs. Griffin added.

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