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HomeNewsArchivesEMERGENCY AGENCIES PUSH HURRICANE READINESS

EMERGENCY AGENCIES PUSH HURRICANE READINESS

Eleven years after Hurricane Hugo and six years after Hurricane Marilyn, emergency planners are trying to replace public apprehension with public preparation. And with the 2000 tropical storm season under way, the word to the wise is, "the sooner the better."
To encourage island residents to get ready long before any hurricane even threatens to strike, the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, several other emergency response agencies and a number of local retail businesses held a preparedness fair in Cruz Bay Park on Saturday.
Representatives of the National Park Service, V.I. Fire Services, St. John Rescue, the Planning and Natural Resources Department and the Environmental Research Station at Lameshur Bay displayed emergency vehicles and equipment they use to coordinate operations during and after a major storm. Also on exhibit were the kinds of items people can — and should – – assemble at home ahead of time: first-aid kits, canned goods, checklists of emergency supplies, and action plans to be carried out 36, 24, 12 and 6 hours before the predicted landfall of a major storm.
Vitema deputy director Alvis Christian said he invited local supermarkets, drug stores and hardware stores to take part in this year's fair as a reminder for shoppers to start stocking up early on non-perishable supplies.
Such public outreach is just one phase of VITEMA's work in the early part of the hurricane season. Since mid-March, Christian and other agency officials have been meeting monthly to plan inspections and go over the latest hurricane forecasts.
Planners have decided to retain Emmaus Moravian Church in Coral Bay and Bethany Moravian Church about a mile east of Cruz Bay as the island's primary emergency shelters and have inspected both sites. The island's two public schools, Guy H. Benjamin in Coral Bay and Julius E. Sprauve in Cruz Bay, have been designated as distribution centers and emergency food stations.
Inspections have also been conducted at two secondary emergency shelters, the Methodist Church in Enighed and the Clarice Thomas Annex at Sprauve School. During the last major emergency, in 1995, the Thomas Annex was a primary shelter; structural problems led planners to shift to the Bethany Church for Hurricane Georges in 1998 and Tropical Storm Jose and Hurricane Lenny in 1999.
The island's two fire stations, Romeo Company in Coral Bay and Zulu Company in Cruz Bay, will be in charge of sand bag distribution — work previously handled by the Public Works Department at Gifft Hill.
Christian said that with budget constraints, he is trying to make scarce resources suffice. "In emergency management, you constantly have to deal with what you have," he said.
The next VITEMA planning meeting is scheduled for St. John, at 10:30 a.m. on June 22 in the agency offices on the first floor of the Public Works building in Susannaberg.

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