Govt. shelters prepared ahead of potential tropical storm

Govt. shelters prepared ahead of potential tropical storm

Temperature checks will be performed at shelters

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Social Services Director Lillian Quant-Forbes indicated today that most shelters throughout the country are prepared to act as sanctuaries as a potential tropical storm in the Atlantic makes its way toward The Bahamas.

Officials noted only one or two facilities needed additional “technical” work.

The weather system has yet to be classified as a storm, and is projected to pass over The Bahamas by Friday as a “weak tropical storm”, according to meteorologists.

However, heavy rainfall could cause flooding in low-lying areas throughout the southern and central Bahamas.

Quant-Forbes said shelter management and training was ongoing.

She said officials visited and assessed the 20 shelters in New Providence and the 115 in the Family Islands.

She acknowledged the increased anxiety levels among some quarters of the public with a potential storm impending.

To this end, Quant-Forbes said medical personnel and social workers will be present in shelters to provide additional support in their respective capacities.

While she advised food and water will be provided in shelters, she encouraged residents to bring essential items, including food and personal effect for comfort.

“You, the shelterees, are going to responsible for your children and for yourself,” she said.

“I would like to say to persons throughout The Bahamas, especially if the system is coming through from Inagua; start to prepare now. If it is as Mr Basden’s says [and] goes away, all will be good and we thank God for it. But prepare as if it is coming.”

The Bahamas is undergoing a second wave of coronavirus cases.

As of yesterday, there were 447 confirmed cases on at least 10 islands and cays.

In May, Eyewitness News reported the government was reinforcing school classrooms to be used as hurricane shelters, recognizing large groups of people in gymnasiums presented challenges amid the pandemic.

In light of the pandemic, Quant-Forbes said social distancing protocols will remain in effect at the shelters, including classrooms used as shelters.

She said all of the requirements to mitigate against COVID-19 have been considered as part of the storm preparedness plans and officials will seek to prioritize safety.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) released an updated list of 136 shelters throughout the archipelago.

School shelters were not among that list, but an updated list is expected to be released tomorrow.

Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness Iram Lewis said Jack Hayward High School and Sister Mary Patricia Russell School in Freeport were in “excellent shape” and repairs to St George’s High School have been completed.

He also said Eight Mile Rock High School was prepared.

“All of the schools in Grand Bahama, I would say — the larger ones for East Grand Bahama: Maurice Moore Primary, the roof… windows and doors are completed and is ready to be used as a shelter. Hugh Campbell [Primary School], which is perhaps the largest one, the most difficult one, is again ready to go.”

Lewis said the only school “lagging behind” was Jack Hayward Junior School, which has more technical work to be completed.

The minister said contingency plans have also been made beyond the shelter list.

Quant-Forbes said all schools in New Providence were available to be used as shelters.

When asked how residents would access restrooms to sanitize amid a storm in classrooms, the Social Services director said wash stations will be outfitted and hand sanitizers will be made available.

Asked about isolation procedures in shelters in the event of a suspected cases, Quant-Forbes said: “At each shelter there is or there will be medical personnel, and with that understanding, what we require is when persons come into the shelter, we aim to see how best we can do temperature checks with them. And also to answer the question as it relates to designated spots, yes; a designated spot will be identified at each shelter for persons who present with any symptoms of COVID-19.”

Responding to questions from Eyewitness News about testing capacity at shelters, Lewis said testing at the shelter was not part of the current plan, but the government will give consideration to testing capacity in conjunction with the Ministry of Health.