Vesta Southwell (left) and Abdias Samuel discuss how NEMS selects shelters and priorities.

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – Emergency shelter selection and management priorities to create safe havens for refuge during natural disasters were described by National Emergency Management Agency National (NEMA) Coordinator Abdias Samuel on Aug. 22 during a presentation on “Working For You.”

Samuel described the shelter selection process as “very tedious” and said it depends on a number of factors such as size, accessibility, basic essentials and safety. He explained there is a draft shelter policy that acts as a guideline for how the shelters should operate, be maintained and who can take refuge in the shelters during times of emergencies.

“We have to look at the greatest good for the greatest number of people,” Samuel said, “pets, persons of ill character and persons with contagious viruses are usually not allowed in these shelters due to health and safety concerns.”

He encouraged the general public to get on-board with the “Buddy System” and be their neighbours’ keeper in times of disasters for a sense of more comfort and to eliminate the heavy reliance on government resources that are usually stretched very thin during emergencies.

“I want the general public to adapt to this and not weigh so much on the government to provide,” Samuel said. “It may also bring a level of comfort to you than going to an actual shelter.”

Vesta Southwell, NEMA Public Relations Officer said shelter managers are trained to pick out persons that may be of “ill character” and that shelter managers have basic first aid training. Each shelter management team consists of a security guard, army personnel or police.

Ms Southwell psycho-social training is important as part of dealing with persons during times of emergencies to deal with a wide array of responses and emotions that come from persons in distress.

“This underscores the importance of psycho-social support as well,” Ms. Southwell explained. “Sometimes, we tend to put that on the back burner like it is not so important, however, we do not necessarily know how we will react if we feel threatened.”

She also urged persons to do family planning prior to natural disasters to have a clear emergency protocol that can be followed when disaster strikes. This should include emergency supplies and contact persons, who you can turn to in the event of an emergency.