Special Features
July 15, 2011
Vincentians, be prepared to react promptly to disasters

Fri, Jul 15, 2011

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is vulnerable to the impacts of several natural and man-made disasters, including hurricanes. It has been impacted by hurricanes in 1951, 1999,2002, 2004 and 2010. In this regard, Vincentians should be prepared to react promptly to disasters such as hurricanes, to save lives and protect property.{{more}}

Hurricanes and tropical storms

Hurricanes are intense tropical storms which can form throughout the year but have a higher frequency in the summer months. This is attributed to the warm ocean temperature which is required for hurricanes to maintain their energies. From above, a hurricane looks like a record playing on a turntable with winds revolving around a calm central point known as the eye.

The most powerful winds are located in the area just around the eye, often referred to as the eye-wall.

A tropical storm becomes a hurricane once winds have achieved a speed of over 74 miles per hour. The actual forward movement of the hurricane, however, rarely exceeds 20 miles per hour. The force of hurricane winds is rated using the popular Saffir-Simpson Scale which is given above:

A hurricane watch is issued when there is a threat of hurricane conditions within 24 to 36 hours.

A hurricane warning is issued when hurricane conditions are expected in 24 hours or less.

What to Do During a Hurricane WATCH

  • Continue listening regularly to your local radio or television stations for updated information. Hurricanes can change direction, intensity, and speed very suddenly. What was a minor threat several hours ago can quickly escalate to a major threat?
  • Listen to the advice of local officials, and evacuate if they tell you to do so. Avoid flooded roads and watch for washed-out bridges. Leaving an area that may be affected will help keep your family safe. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your community. Following the advice of local authorities is your safest protection. Local officials may close down certain roads, especially near the coast, when the outer effects of increasing wind and rain from a hurricane reach the coast.
  • Prepare your property for high winds. Hurricane winds can blow large, heavy objects and send them crashing into homes. Anything not secured may become a deadly or damaging projectile.
  • Bring lawn furniture inside, as well as outdoor decorations or ornaments, trashcans, hanging plants, or anything else that can be picked up by the wind.
  • Make trees more wind resistant by removing diseased and damaged limbs, and then strategically remove branches so that wind can blow through.
  • Secure building by closing and boarding up each window of your home. Remove outside antennas.
  • Moor boat securely or move it to a designated safe place. Use rope or chain to secure boat to trailer. Use tie-downs to anchor trailer to the ground or house.
  • Fill your car’s gas tank. If advised to evacuate, you may have to travel long distances or be caught in traffic, idling for long periods of time. Gas stations along the route may be closed.
  • Stock up on prescription medications. Stores and pharmacies may be closed after the storm.
  • Check your Disaster Supplies Kit. Some supplies may need to be replaced or restocked.
  • Turn refrigerator and freezer to coldest setting. Open only when absolutely necessary and close quickly. Keeping the coldest air in will help perishables last much longer in the event of a power failure.
  • Store valuables and personal papers in a safety deposit box in a waterproof container on the highest level of your home. Hurricanes leave much water damage inside homes. Historically, it is shown that protecting valuables in this manner will provide the best security.
  • Turn off utilities if told to do so by authorities. Authorities may ask you to turn off water or electric utilities to prevent damage to your home or within the community. Most of the time they will tell you to leave the gas on because a professional is required to turn your gas back on, and it may be several weeks before you receive service.

What to Do During a Hurricane WARNING

  • Listen to a radio, or portable, battery-powered radio or television for updated information and official instructions. Hurricanes can change direction, intensity, and speed  very suddenly. Continue listening for local information.
  • If officials announce a hurricane warning, they may ask you to leave your home as soon as possible to be safe. Take your Disaster Supplies Kit and go to a shelter or your family contact’s home. Call your check-in contact so someone will know where you are going. Local officials advise leaving only if they truly believe your location is in danger. It is important to follow their instructions as soon as possible. Roads may become blocked and the storm can worsen, preventing safe escape. Having your disaster supplies will make you more comfortable while you are away from home.
  • If you are not advised to evacuate, stay indoors, on the first floor away from windows, skylights and glass doors, even if they are covered. Stay on the floor least likely to be affected by strong winds and flood waters. A small interior room without windows on the first floor is usually the safest place. Have as many walls between you and the outside winds as possible. Sometimes strong winds and projectiles may tear hurricane shutters off, so stay away from windows even if they are covered. Lie on the floor under a table or other sturdy object. Being under a sturdy object will offer greater protection from falling objects.
  • Have a supply of flashlights and extra batteries handy. Avoid using open flames (candles and kerosene lamps) as a source of light. Flashlights provide the safest emergency lighting source. Between 1984 and 1998, in the US candle-related deaths from home fires following hurricanes were three times greater than the number of deaths related to the direct impact of the hurricane. Kerosene lamps require a great deal of ventilation and are not designed for indoor use. *
  • Store drinking water in clean bathtubs, sinks, plastic bottles, and cooking utensils. Public water supplies and wells may become contaminated, or electric pumps may be inoperative if power is lost. Survivors of community-wide disasters have said the individual’s greatest need following the disaster is water.

What to Do if Evacuation Is Necessary

  • Leave as soon as possible (if possible, in daylight). Avoid flooded roads and watch for washed-out bridges. Evacuation will probably take longer than expected. Give yourself plenty of time.
  • Secure your home by unplugging appliances and turning off electricity and the main water valve. This will reduce potential damage to your appliances (from power surges) and to your home.
  • Tell someone outside of the storm area where you are going. Relatives and friends will be concerned about your safety. Letting someone know your travel plans will help relieve his or her fears and anxiety.
  • Bring preassembled emergency supplies and warm protective clothing. People frequently arrive at shelters with nothing. Having these items will make you more comfortable.
  • While shelters provide a safe place to stay and food, specialty items for infants and individuals on restricted diets may not be available. It may take several days until permission is given by local authorities to re-enter an evacuated area. Bring these items with you to a shelter:
  • First aid kit, manual, and prescription medications.
  • Baby food and diapers.
  • Cards, games, books.
  • Toiletries.
  • Battery-powered radio and extra batteries.
  • Flashlight (one per person) and extra batteries.
  • Blankets or sleeping bags.
  • Identification.
  • Valuable papers (copies of insurance papers, passports, and other essential documents).

What to Do After a Hurricane

  • Continue listening to local radio or television stations for information and instructions. Access may be limited to some parts of the community, or roads may be blocked.
  • If you were evacuated, return home when local officials tell you it is safe. Local officials on the scene are your best source of information on accessible areas and passable roads.
  • Stay alert for extended rainfall and subsequent flooding, even after the hurricane or tropical storm has weakened. Hurricanes may stall or change direction when they make landfall, or they may bring a lot of rain upriver, causing additional flood hazards for hours or days after the storm.
  • Stay away from floodwaters. Drive only if absolutely necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges. Continue to follow all flood safety messages. Floodwaters may last for days following a hurricane. If you come upon a flooded road, turn around and go another way. When you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, if you can safely get out of the car, do so immediately and climb to higher ground. Never try to walk, swim, or drive through such swift water. Most flood fatalities are caused by people attempting to drive through water or people playing in high water. If it is moving swiftly, even water six inches deep can sweep you off your feet, and two feet can carry away most automobiles.
  • Stay on firm ground. Moving water only six inches deep can sweep you off your feet. Standing water may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
  • Help injured or trapped persons. Give first aid where appropriate. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Call for help.
  • Help a neighbour who may require special assistance–infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities. Elderly people and people with disabilities may require additional assistance. People who care for them or who have large families may need additional assistance in emergency situations.
  • Avoid loose or dangling power lines; immediately report them to the Power Company, police, or fire department. Reporting potential hazards will get the utilities turned off as quickly as possible, preventing further hazard and injury.
  • Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned to service. Call an electrician for advice before using electricity, which may have received water damage.
  • Check refrigerated food for spoilage. If power was lost, some foods may be spoiled.
  • Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you are certain it is not contaminated. Hurricane-driven floodwaters may have contaminated public water supplies or wells. Local officials should advise you on the safety of the drinking water. Undamaged water heaters or melted ice cubes can provide good sources of fresh drinking water.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls. Telephone lines are frequently overwhelmed in disaster situations.

They need to be clear for emergency calls to get through.

Information courtesy:
National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO)
Ministry of National Security
Old Montrose
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Tel: 784-456-2975
Fax: 784-457-1691
Email: nemosvg@vincysurf.com, nemosvg@gmail.com or nemosvg@gov.vc