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DHS Releases Emergency Shelter Information Ahead of Hurricane Season

 

A chart listing emergency shelters across the U.S. Virgin Islands ahead of the 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season. (Photo courtesy VIDHS)

The V.I. Human Services Department (DHS) has shared information regarding the locations of emergency storm shelters across the USVI ahead of the potentially very busy 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which begins on Saturday, June 1.

DHS Communications Director Ryan Nugent and Community Affairs Coordinator Yvette Henry provided the Source with shelter information for residents, including accommodations that offer medical services, care for individuals with special needs, and locations that permit pets.

“For [the 2024 Atlantic] Hurricane Season, DHS is strategically prepared to accommodate residents during emergencies, ensuring safety and organization in times of crisis,” Nugent said.

Short-Term and Long-Term Shelters

Emergency accommodations are provided to USVI residents on a short-term and long-term basis to offer lodging before and after a storm (pre-storm/pre-landfall and post-storm/post-landfall shelters). Nugent explained that the maximum number of individuals that each shelter can accommodate changes before a storm arrives and after a storm departs. The amount of space allotted per housed person increases for longer-term stays, meaning that post-storm shelters have a lower maximum capacity.

“Pre-storm shelters [also called Evacuation Shelters] provide a safe place to stay for those who have been ordered to evacuate their homes before a storm,” Nugent explained. “They typically are only meant to house residents for 12 to 72 hours until the storm moves through,” Nugent added. “Residents are encouraged by DHS to bring their sleeping supplies such as cots and blankets, because it may not be possible or practical to move in supplies for such a short term,” he noted.

A graphic depicting emergency shelter locations across St. Croix. (Photo courtesy VIDHS/FEMA/Capstone)

Post-storm shelters provide longer-term availability for residents who have been displaced due to a disaster.

“Post-storm shelters [also called Congregate Shelters] are available for residents who have been evacuated and are unable to reach their homes or whose homes are damaged or destroyed,” Nugent stated. “Post-storm shelters usually open within 72 hours after landfall and may provide sleeping support items such as cots, blankets and pillows, meals, shower facilities, and health and mental services.”

Henry added the following details about items individuals can bring to shelters.

“We highly recommend that individuals who go to the shelters take a backpack or a small overnight travel bag [containing] their items,” Henry said. “These [items] can [include] a change of clothing, blankets, small pillows, phone and chargers, flashlights, small radio, medication(s), personal care items, and important documents. [For individuals who] have small children, they should [bring] reading materials and games,” Henry advised.

A graphic showing emergency shelter locations across St. Thomas and St. John. (Photo courtesy VIDHS/FEMA/Capstone)

There are several items that are not allowed at the facilities, and Nugent and Henry explained that all rules and regulations must be followed.

“No weapons, alcohol, or illegal drugs are allowed in the shelters,” Nugent declared. “Smoking is also prohibited, including the use of e-cigarettes,” he noted. “Residents are required to complete registration before entering the shelter, [and] there is a ‘lights out’ quiet time that is enforced. [Additionally,] no pets [are allowed] in the general population area, and children must be attended to at all times. Parents are not allowed to leave the premises without [their children].”

“These rules or policies are ‘first strike and you are out’,” Henry added. “[There are no exceptions, [and] these policies are explained to everyone when the intake process is completed [during an individual’s] first general meeting,” she said.

Accommodations Providing Medical Services

The V.I. Health Department (DOH) operates unique shelters for individuals who need medical care and persons with special needs. Residents needing special medical services must register with DHS or contact the DOH before arriving at an interim housing facility.

Nugent explained that DOH typically opens Medical Special Needs shelters at the Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas and the Career and Technical Education Center on St. Croix. However, residents are encouraged to contact the department for confirmation of the locations. (A response from DOH to a request by the Source for more information was not immediately returned by the time of this publication.)

“For those requiring a Medical Special Needs shelter, individuals must have previously registered with DHS or coordinated with the V.I. Health Department before going to the shelter,” Nugent explained. “Those already registered [to go to a Medical Special Needs shelter] can coordinate transportation to the shelter by calling the Virgin Islands Public Transit System on St. Croix or St. Thomas,” he added.

Nugent said that caretakers are required to go with individuals needing a Medical Special Needs shelter.

“In every case or scenario, caretakers must accompany everyone admitted to a Medical Special Needs shelter,” Nugent said. “These shelters are not open for public use and usually reserved for patients under our care at one of our nursing homes.”

Emergency Housing Locations and Information

DHS provided the following information regarding shelters across the territory. A more detailed breakdown of the shelter locations on each island is included.

  • St. Thomas offers a total pre-landfall [shelter] capacity of 1,030 spaces. This includes Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, with 782 spaces, and Lockhart Elementary School/Cancryn Junior High, with 248 spaces. Post-landfall, the [shelter] capacities reduce to 390 and 123, respectively. Lockhart Elementary School also offers pet-friendly sheltering.
  • St. Croix has the highest total pre-landfall [shelter] capacity at 1,885 spaces. This includes 1,724 spaces at the St. Croix Educational Complex and 161 spaces at D.C. Canegata Recreation Center. Post-landfall, the capacities reduce to 631 and 80, respectively. The St. Croix Educational Complex also offers pet-friendly sheltering.
  • St. John provides an essential shelter with a total pre-landfall capacity of 195 spaces. This includes 180 spaces at Gifft Hill School and 15 spaces at Adrian Senior Center. Post-landfall, these capacities reduce to 90 and 8, respectively.
  • Water Island offers shelter at the Water Island Fire House with a post-landfall capacity of 53 spaces. Pre-landfall [shelter] is not available.
  • Additional Pet Sheltering support on St. John is provided by Canine, Cats, & Critters.

Shelter Locations and Capacity by Island

St. John 

  • Adrian Senior Center
    • Pre-landfall Capacity: 15 (20 sq. feet/person)
    • Post-landfall Capacity: 8 (40 sq. feet/person)
    • Offers Pet Sheltering: No
  • Gifft Hill School
    • Pre-landfall Capacity: 180 (20 sq. feet/person)
    • Post-landfall Capacity: 90 (40 sq. feet/person)
    • Offers Pet Sheltering: No
  • Total Capacity 
    • Pre-landfall: 195
    • Post-landfall: 98

St. Thomas 

  • Ivanna Eudora Kean High School (IEKHS)
    • Pre-landfall Capacity: 782 (20 sq. feet/person)
    • Post-landfall Capacity: 390 (40 sq. feet/person)
    • Offers Pet Sheltering: No
  • Lockhart Elementary School/Cancryn Junior High
    • Pre-landfall Capacity: 248 (20 sq. feet/person)
    • Post-landfall Capacity: 123 (40 sq. feet/person)
    • Offers Pet Sheltering: Yes
  • Total Capacity (STT)
    • Pre-landfall: 1,030
    • Post-landfall: 513

St. Croix 

  • D.C. Canegata Recreation Center
    • Pre-landfall Capacity: 161 (20 sq. feet/person)
    • Post-landfall Capacity: 80 (40 sq. feet/person)
    • Offers Pet Sheltering: No
  • St. Croix Educational Complex 
    • Pre-landfall Capacity: 1,724 (20 sq. feet/person)
    • Post-landfall Capacity: 631 (40 sq. feet/person)
    • Offers Pet Sheltering: Yes
  • Total Capacity 
    • Pre-landfall: 1,885
    • Post-landfall: 711

Water Island 

  • Water Island Fire House
    • Pre-landfall Capacity: Not available
    • Post-landfall Capacity: 53 (40 sq. feet/person)
    • Offers Pet Sheltering: No
  • Total Capacity 
    • Pre-landfall: N/A
    • Post-landfall: 27

Additional Information

  • Canines, Cats, & Critters will provide limited pet sheltering support on St. John.

USVI Weather Updates

Weather information is available from the National Weather Service and Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency. Additionally, a daily weather forecast is published on the Source Weather Page, where readers can view weather forecast videos and disaster preparedness video segments.

 

 

 

 

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