ODPEM gets virus-ready during hurricane preparedness
HILMA TATE, disaster preparedness coordinator at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) in Westmoreland, says that additional spaces will be needed to effectively operate emergency shelters while managing and living with coronavirus during the hurricane season.
Tate told The Gleaner that unlike previous years, the operation of emergency shelters will be very different in many ways as the country embrace a new normal in the observation of social distancing.
“As you know, we are in a period where we have to be thinking about COVID-19, and one of the things that will be different this year is the fact that we will have to identify an isolation area so that if someone comes down with the COVID-19 symptoms while they are in the shelter, the person could be placed in that area away from the rest of the persons who are sheltered,” said Tate.
According to the ODPEM official, 84 shelters are strategically located across the parish. Ten of the shelters have been deemed as priority, catering to the needs of citizens living in communities that are prone to flooding. Social distancing will be a major feature, as much emphasis will be placed on creating conditions that would help to prevent the spread of the COVID-19.
“It would mean identifying additional classrooms in the shelters, and to encourage persons to ensure that their homes are safe. If their home is not safe, they may choose to go to family members who have safer space, and that, hopefully, would reduce the number of persons coming into the emergency shelters,” Tate explained.
The disaster coordinator noted that the parish was in an advanced state of readiness to respond to natural disasters, including flooding, during the hurricane season. The hurricane season started on June 1 and ends on November 30.
Tate said ODPEM, through the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation, carried out several flood simulations in Hudson Street, Cooke Street, and Llandilo Phase One. These areas have been impacted by major flooding over many years.