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Shelters on New Providence are ready for Irene

All shelters to be activated at 6 p.m. today
Guardian National Correspondent

Published: Aug 24, 2011

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While residents scramble to board up their houses and stock up during the last open hours at local groceries stores, hurricane shelters across New Providence are preparing for an influx for residents as Hurricane Irene approaches into the afternoon.

At New Providence Community Center, one of many hurricane shelters for the Western division of New Providence, a special team has been training with The bahamas Red Cross all year to provide assistance during a hurricane at their location.

“We have a dedicated team of 15 volunteers who have decided to give their time in the event of an emergency here in the shelter,” says director of NPCC William Tucker.

Ready for 100 or more people with such a strong storm on the way, NPCC remains on guard and advises those who may need to seek shelter — such as those in low-lying areas or areas by the sea — to know their options.

“Don’t wait too late.  Know your options early,” he says.  “For those who are non-mobile, call social services ahead of time for arrangements because some shelters like ours are non-mobile.”

At the Salvation Army locations on Mackey Street and Meadow street, which are one of several hurricane shelters for the Eastern and Central divisions of New Providence respectively, generators are full, food and water supplies are secured, and flashlights are stocked.

“We basically have everything intact — we are prepared and ready and our command centers are open this afternoon,” says Captain Vernitta Hepburn, speaking on behalf of her divisional commander at the Salvation Army.

With Irene’s rapid development into a category three hurricane overnight and projections for it to strengthen, they even have emergency preparations underway for evacuations if necessary, providing trucks and even a bus if the building becomes damaged or flooding occurs.

“We looked at that in our emergency meeting and we are prepared to deal with that,” says Captain Hepburn.  “We have persons available and manpower available. We have people on-call and stand-by radios to call each other and transformer radios to BTC.”

With all the preparation, they are on guard to accept more than their maximum capacity of people and to provide assistance to those who may need refuge for three days to a week after the storm has passed.  With a major hurricane bearing down on the islands, they know anything is possible.

“Don’t take it for granted that nothing will happen,” she advises.  “If you need to come, then come.”

Indeed, at Golden Gates Assembly World Outreach Ministries on Carmichael Road, which is a hurricane shelter for the Southern Division of New Providence, a staff of Defense force officers and Red Cross representatives are prepared to handle any number of people in the densely populated area.

“Because we’re right in the heart of Fire Trail Road where a number of Haitians live, we could have any number of people here,” says Bishop Ross Davis.  “I know one year we were really crowded; last year we were not crowded.  This year we might be because this is a big one and a goodly number of people have been calling.”

Though they are technically a shelter for the duration of the storm, they too will be accommodating to those who may need extra assistance in Irene’s aftermath.

“We’ll be here until other arrangements are made,” says Bishop Davis.  “We’ll see what happens but I’m praying of course none of that will be necessary — I’m praying that after the storm we’ll just be saying ‘Thank you Lord’.”

NEMA advises even residents who have made adequate hurricane preparations on their houses to have an emergency evacuation plan and emergency pack in case they need to leave their house.

Emergency packs for shelters should include any prescription or special medications, a first aid kit, flashlights and batteries, a portable radio player, drinking water and non-perishable food with a can opener, toilet paper, paper towels and pre-moistened towelettes, personal hygiene items, pillows, blankets and/or sleeping mattress, garbage bags, a camera, important papers such as passports and other identifications, extra clothing and items to keep children occupied.

They advise to shut off electricity and water before leaving and to close all windows and lock all doors. It is also advised to let friends or relatives know where you are going so someone knows your whereabouts when the storm clears.

They will be broadcasting information on local radio stations about where and when shelters will be open.

The National Emergencement Agency (NEMA) advises that based on the latest timelines for Hurricane Irene's path through the various islands in The Bahamas, all shelters in The Bahamas should be activated at 6 p.m. today.

All shelter managers must report in to their assigned shelters by 4 p.m. Persons responsible for opening shelters should be in place.

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