“What we’re attempting to do is keep the Virgin Island’s public informed in terms of preparedness for the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season,” said VITEMA Director Elton Lewis.
Representatives from Virgin Island agencies were on hand to give advice. Many of their tips were things islanders have heard for years, but the presenters also tackled the small, easy-to-overlook details that could be the difference between life and death.
The main piece of advice echoed by everyone there was to make sure you have a kit of emergency supplies assembled before there’s even a threat of a hurricane. The kit should include such basics as batteries, a radio, flashlights, and canned food.
VITEMA representatives advised attendees to also stock some items they may not have thought of, like a whistle to call for help, moist toilettes for sanitary purposes, and a wrench to turn off your home’s utilities. They also reminded people not to forget a can opener.
A complete list of items for an emergency kit can be found online at www.ready.gov/document/family-supply-list.
Glendina Matthew, assistant director of the Division of Banking and Insurance, told attendees to assemble a kit of personal documents. She passed out legal-pad-sized, waterproof plastic bags, advising people to place their birth certificates, passports, and insurance policies in them and keep them close during a disaster.
These documents are often necessary for people to start rebuilding their lives after a disaster and Matthew said they have a way of going missing.
“You’ll be surprised, after a storm, people don’t know where they are,” she said.
She also cautioned people to take photos of their home before a storm hits as well as after. That way insurance companies can’t claim damage to your property was pre-existing.
Liz Bermudez of the Virgin Islands Waste Management Association (VIWMA) also preached the importance of taking action before a disaster occurs.
“We all have garbage around our property that needs to be taken to the landfill. They can become projectiles if you don’t tie them down,” she said.
She advised attendees to identify any large pieces of trash (old lawn furniture, car parts, building materials, etc.) and make a plan to remove them before a hurricane threatens the island. Such items can be taken to the landfill, or to various sites around the island during a bulk trash clean-up day. VIWMA says the next such day should be sometime late in July.
Lewis said the key to coming through a disaster safely was to plan ahead. He cautioned people against relying too heavily on the government to save them in the wake of a disaster and told them to take steps to become as self-sufficient as possible.
He added that people with disabilities or other special needs should contact the Department of Human Services so rescuers will know where they are and what help they might need.
“Overall we've just got to keep getting the word out that people must be prepared,” he said. “People must be self-sufficient, and be able to take care of themselves at least up to 72 hours.”