The Government of the Virgin Islands remains committed to ensuring the safety of its residents and visitors during the upcoming 2019 Atlantic hurricane season. To make this happen (Emergency Services Function No. 6) involves mass care and shelter management, led by the V.I. Department of Human Services. The main aim of identifying such facilities is to provide safe, temporary accommodation for a significant number of residents and visitors who may feel threatened due to an approaching weather system or who may have been displaced/homeless subsequent to a disastrous event. DHS, in collaboration with the V.I. Territorial Emergency Agency and the V.I. Department of Health provides the following information.
As residents prepare their homes and families for the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season that will begin June 1 and end Nov. 30, now is the time to make plans for shelter and then communicate the plans to family and friends. Not everyone has a safe location to shelter in place.
For individuals whose residences are unknown or questionable (unsafe or compromised), DHS will open two shelters on St. Croix, two shelters on St. Thomas, one shelter on St. John, and one shelter on Water Island. Additionally, DOH will open special needs shelters on St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John. A special needs shelter is for residents who, during periods of evacuation or emergency, require sheltering assistance due to physical impairment, mental impairment, cognitive impairment or sensory disabilities.
Depending on the threat to the territory, shelters are anticipated to open approximately 48-hours prior to landfall. Landfall is the time where sustained hurricane force winds (greater than 45 miles per hour) reaches the island(s). Once hurricane force winds reach the territory, do not attempt to leave the home and travel to a shelter. It is unsafe to travel then, and people are putting their own lives and that of any first responders at risk.
Notification of shelter openings will be announced on radio stations, newspapers, governmental websites, social media and Alert VI. To sign-up for Alert VI, go to www.vitema.vi.gov and choose which method of notification is desired – text, phone, email or all three. Also, non-profit organizations will receive direct notification of shelter openings in order to assist in transportation of individuals.
Support for shelter management will be accomplished through inter-agency coordination with the V.I. Department of Education, Department of Human Services, Department of Health, American Red Cross and the Virgin Islands Police Department. It is equally important that those who need shelter cooperate with these coordinating entities to ensure a smooth and comfortable operation.
To assist with individual and family disaster preparedness, visit the Disaster Preparedness EXPO 2019, sponsored by the Department of Health. On St. Croix, the EXPO is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., June 22, at the D.C. Canegata Recreation Center. On St. Thomas, the EXPO is scheduled for noon to 5 p.m., June 29, at Tutu Park Mall Center Court.