When it comes to disaster preparedness and management, it is so critical to continue to learn, and to know what’s next. This week, Executive Director Meaghan Enright and Operations Manager Mandy Lemley traveled to New York City to attend the National Disaster and Emergency Management Expo, a conference focused on new trends, products, and strategies in the disaster and emergency management space. Several seminars were of particular interest, including two presentations by SBP, a nonprofit founded in Louisiana that works in disaster recovery across the country. The SBP presentations, on racial and social equity in disaster and supporting rural communities impacted by disaster, both spoke to the challenges that the U.S. Virgin Islands faces in our recovery. Another panel of particular interest related to weather forecasting and disasters. Andrew Kruczkiewicz, a Senior Staff Associate at Columbia Climate School International Research Institute for Climate and Society spoke about integrating forecasting into decision making. For example, using seasonal precipitation forecasts to identify regions at higher than average risk of floods, and deploying resources accordingly. This type of forecasting is particularly useful for national and international humanitarian aid organizations, but can also be useful on a smaller scale when it comes to understanding local flash flooding risks. Another area of interest presented at the conference was the potential applications of machine learning in disaster preparedness and response. For St. John and the greater U.S. Virgin Islands, we are particularly interested in the use of A.I. to expedite preliminary damage assessments in the aftermath of disasters. Expediting the timeline PDAs accelerates distribution of disaster relief funding, and AI technology can also help ensure that damage awards more accurately reflect the cost of reconstruction. The final session on Thursday, November 17th was titled “The Next Generation : Climate Change and Disaster Management Perspectives”. Sessions like this are great examples of the high level conversations that drive innovation and progress across the industry. As Love City Strong continues to grow and expand our work in disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation, we need to keep in mind the developing impacts of climate change as well as trends and new approaches within the field. Spending a few days away from the Territory with like-minded disaster management professionals is an excellent opportunity to infuse new ideas and perspectives into our work.
National Preparedness Month is in its final week! This year’s theme is “A Lasting Legacy: The life you’ve built is worth protecting.” All month long we are sharing tips and best practices related to individual, household, and community preparedness. Preparing for disasters is important for you and your family – including your pets! This week’s topic is: Pet Preparedness Our pets are family, no doubt about it. It makes sense, therefore, that when we make a plan for the rest of the household, we also plan for our pets. Sheltering, food and water, entertainment, safety… all of these are important considerations for our human AND animal family. Make a Plan for your Pet By planning in advance, you can help minimize stress on yourself and your pet. Due to rapidly changing circumstances, you may need to make decisions quickly in an emergency. For example, if you need to go to a shelter, make sure they can accommodate your pet. If they can’t, you’ll need alternate, safe arrangements for them. Most importantly, do not leave your pet behind – they could end up lost, injured, or worse.
- Have an evacuation plan for your pet. In addition to knowing shelter policies, make sure you have the necessary documentation to ensure that your pet can travel with you if needed.
- Plan with neighbors, friends, or family to make sure that someone can take care of your pet if you are unable to do so.
- Get your pet microchipped! Keep your address and phone number up to date and include emergency contact information.
- Food: At least a three-day supply in an airtight, waterproof container.
- Water: At least three days of water specifically for your pets.
- Medicines and medical records: Most boarding kennels, veterinarians and animal shelters will need your pet’s medical records to make sure all vaccinations are current in case of emergency.
- Important documents, for example, registration information, adoption papers and vaccination documents. Talk to your veterinarian about microchipping and enrolling your pet in a recovery database.
- First aid kit, including cotton bandage rolls, bandage tape and scissors, antibiotic ointment, flea and tick prevention, latex gloves, isopropyl alcohol and saline solution. In addition, including a pet first aid reference book is a good idea.
- Collar or harness with ID tag, rabies tag and a leash.
- Crate or pet carrier: Have a sturdy, safe crate or carrier in case you need to evacuate. The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand, turn around and lie down.
- Sanitation: Pet litter and litter box if appropriate, newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags and household chlorine bleach.
- A picture of you and your pet together: If you become separated, a picture of you and your pet together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you. Add species, breed, age, sex, color and distinguishing characteristics.
- Familiar items such as treats, toys and bedding can help reduce stress for your pet.
As National Hurricane Preparedness Month continues, this week we’re focusing on preparing kids and teens for disaster situations. Throughout September, we are sharing information about the importance of individual and household preparedness. Not only is this true for adults, but also for the youth in your household and community. When young people are involved in the preparedness process, it helps to ensure that they feel safe, secure, and comfortable when a disaster strikes. These discussions don’t need to be complicated. First, establish a set time for open, honest dialogue with children and teens to discuss preparedness. Then, talk to them about the different kinds of hazards that could impact your community. Help them understand how the act of preparing beforehand will help keep you and your family safe. Let them ask questions, and do your best to answer them honestly and simply. Finally, as you respond, try to frame your answers in language they will understand, depending on their current stage of development. Each person in your household should have a role in preparedness. Younger children can collect pre-identified items to go in your household emergency kit. Older children can help do research on potential hazards, or type up your written plan. Teenagers age 14 and up can work with your local emergency response agency to establish a Teen Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in your community. Once the kids and teens in your household are involved in your preparedness, encourage them to talk to their friends, classmates, faith leaders, and teachers about their preparedness. Create a strategy for children to share their knowledge and participate in preparedness activities with their peers. This can help normalize the preparedness process in your community. Don’t wait—Start preparing today! To find more information on how to get children involved in the preparedness process, including interactive games, activities, and videos made especially for children and teens, visit www.ready.gov/kids For up to date, reliable forecasts, visit the National Hurricane Center website. In the Virgin Islands, specific alerts, watches, and warnings can be found on VITEMA’s website, or sign up for AlertVI.
National Preparedness Month is in full swing! This year’s theme is “A Lasting Legacy: The life you’ve built is worth protecting.” Therefore, throughout September we are sharing tips and best practices related to different aspects of preparedness. Preparing for disasters will help create a lasting legacy for you and your family. This week’s topic is: Build a Kit. An emergency kit should include everything that you and your household would need to survive after a disaster. Remember, you may be without electricity, without essential services, and without access to your home for a minimum of seven days. Non-perishable food, water, medications, first aid supplies, alternative power sources, and copies of your important personal documents are just a few of the essential components that make up a strong emergency kit. You can visit Ready.gov for a comprehensive list of items to keep in your kit. Every emergency kit is unique. Include the basics needed for survival, as well as items that will make you and your family feel safe and comfortable, both during and after a disaster. This could include toys, a favorite book, a deck of cards, stuffed animals, or a sketchbook or journal. Make sure to include back up glasses or contact lenses, extra batteries for hearing aids, and other items you may need if you’re away from home for an extended period of time. With COVID-19 still impacting communities around the world, it’s also a good idea to include some extra masks, a digital thermometer, hand sanitizer, and surface cleaning supplies, to help keep your family safe and healthy. If you have pets, they should have their own emergency kit! Visit the Humane Society’s pet preparedness guide for everything you need to know about creating the best kit for your pets. It’s never too early to start preparing for a disaster. Evidence shows that those who are prepared with an emergency plan and kit prior to a disaster impact have better outcomes than those who don’t. Building your emergency kits together can help your family address anxieties and fears related to disasters, and offer children in particular a sense of control in unfamiliar circumstances. Start today – build a kit!
National Preparedness Month is in full swing! This year’s theme is “A Lasting Legacy: The life you’ve built is worth protecting.” Therefore, throughout September we are sharing tips and best practices related to individual, household, and community preparedness. Preparing for disasters will help create a lasting legacy for you and your family. What’s the best place to start preparing? Make a plan! An emergency plan is a detailed, written set of actions you will take in the event of an emergency. It includes things like where you’ll go if you cannot shelter in place, how you’ll communicate with loved ones both near and far, what your plans are for your pets, and more. For a full description of what to include in your emergency plan, visit Ready.gov/plan
Remember : writing your emergency plan down and discussing it with your family, friends, and neighbors can help manage any fear that exists around potential disasters. Involving kids in the planning process can help ease their anxiety and build confidence as they learn what to do in an emergency.Once you’ve finalized your plan, bring your neighbors and loved ones into the conversation. Sharing your plan saves valuable time for first responders who are checking on people after a disaster. Furthermore, it gives your loved ones peace of mind that you will be safe.
Useful Tip : appoint an out of town friend or family member as your designated point of contact. Put them in charge of reaching out to designated people to let them know that you are safe after a disaster. By notifying your “point of contact” with one call, you save time and resources. This is particularly important if there is prolonged power loss or damage to communication services.Without a doubt, an emergency plan is the foundation for individual and family preparedness. The more prepared that you and your household are, the less reliant on post-disaster services you will need be. As a result, more of your time and energy can be spent helping others, which helps your community recovery in the long run. There’s no better time to start preparing than today! For more information on how to create a written emergency plan, including downloadable plan templates, videos, and activities, visit www.ready.gov/plan. Visit the National Hurricane Center website for up to date, reliable forecasts. Finally, remember to visit VITEMA’s website or sign up for AlertVI to get USVI specific alerts, watches, and warnings.
Each year around this time, we emphasize how important it is to build your kit. Generally emergency kits follow a formula : food, water, medicine, important documents… a complete list can be downloaded from Ready.gov. However, all families and households are unique, so what should you consider when building YOUR kit that will ensure it is useful for the whole household? Access and Functional Needs If someone in your household has access and functional needs, make sure to prioritize their supplies. This may mean packing an extra pair of prescription glasses or back up contact lenses. Perhaps hearing aids and back up batteries are your priority. Any medical supplies your family uses regularly, like oxygen, insulin, or catheters, for example, should be included. If anyone wears medical alert bracelets or tags, ensure that they are on at all times. For more information on Emergency Preparedness for Individuals with Disabilities and Access and Functional Needs, click here. Children and Young Adults Packing a kit for a household that includes small children or young adults is going to be very case specific. Are you a card game or board game family? Pack one or two of your favorite (and smallest) games. Is your teen a big reader? Throw in some favorite books, a book light, and a backup battery or two. If your teen is a gamer, packing a handheld device and an external charger can provide plenty of entertainment. For younger children, a favorite, comforting toy or blanket can help alleviate anxiety, and movies or tv shows downloaded onto a computer or tablet can provide a distraction in a pinch. Ready Kids has lots more great information about kids’ preparedness! Seniors Seniors’ comfort should be a top priority. If you are sheltering at home this is more straightforward, but if you need to go to a shelter or evacuate on short notice after a storm, your emergency kit should include a blanket, spare clothes, a jacket, comfortable shoes, and any backup supplies you may need, like adult briefs or wound dressings. Talk to seniors in your family about what forms of entertainment they prefer, and plan accordingly. For more information about how to prepare older adults for a disaster, visit the Red Cross website. Pets Pet Preparedness is a topic all its own! In fact, it has its own month! June is Pet Preparedness Month, and all month long Love City Strong will be spotlighting tips and best practices for keeping your animals safe during a storm. Stay tuned to our website and social media for more information!
We often focus on community preparedness here at Love City Strong, but resilience really begins with personal preparedness. When you’re on a plane and the flight attendant is giving the safety lecture, they always tell you, in the event of an emergency, place your mask on first before helping those around you. Personal preparedness functions in much the same way. By taking action early to ensure that you are as ready as possible, you make yourself more available to help your family, friends, and neighbors in the event of a disaster. Here are a few tips to help improve your overall readiness, particularly during hurricane season: Know your needs Do you have dietary restrictions? Are you on a daily medication? Do you struggle to function without that morning cup of coffee? All of these are things you can plan for in advance. Make sure you have the food you need on hand, and speak to your doctor about how to safely and responsibly build an emergency supply of medication. If coffee is your lifeblood, include a camp stove and a coffee press in your emergency kit! Know your surroundings Maybe your home is surrounded by trees, or maybe you’re exposed to a breeze even on a calm day. Understanding your surroundings is the first step to understanding your risk. Check your home and property for potential hazards, and take steps to address them where necessary. Know the process Make sure you have emergency contact information written down and readily available. Include family, friends, and neighbors as well as work, insurance, and emergency numbers. Do you have a pet? Include your vet’s number as well. Plan financially Even if you can’t spare much, it’s important to try and set aside some emergency cash to have on hand. Whether you save your spare change and singles all year round, or team up with your roommates to start a household emergency fund, or have a savings account that serves the purpose, find a strategy that’s manageable for you and begin the journey. For more information about this and other aspects of financial preparedness, check out this article on Ready.gov. Think about the “what ifs” Take a few minutes and imagine what might happen if a storm came through tomorrow. Would you lose power? Would your car be secure? Would you need to reconnect with your family at a predetermined rally point, or would you likely be together? Use the preparedness planning process to poke holes in all the scenarios you can think of, and revise your plan accordingly. Of course personal preparedness includes many things that we talk about in the context of community preparedness as well. Building a kit, making a plan, strengthening your home… all familiar concepts. The important thing to remember is to address these things in ever expanding circles, starting with yourself, then your family, then neighbors and colleagues, and the greater community. Following these steps now will make you much more useful to them in the event of a disaster!
Here we are in May, again, and it’s time to start thinking about our hurricane preparedness efforts. For those of us who live in “hurricane alley”, these tasks are annual habits. Forming habits can be helpful, but sometimes they can make us complacent. Each year, it’s important to revisit your emergency plan, check your kit, and make sure your home and family are ready for the season. Threats from hurricanes include powerful winds, heavy rainfall, storm surges, coastal and inland flooding, rip currents, tornadoes, and landslides. Hurricanes can often undergo rapid intensification, meaning they can quickly gain strength before and as they make landfall. For this reason, it’s important to begin your preparation well in advance of an incoming storm. Before hurricane season starts, you should:
- Update your emergency plan with your family
- Check your insurance and strengthen your home
- Assemble disaster supplies
- Help your neighbors
This week, I am pleased to be attending the 2022 National Hurricane Conference in Orlando. This annual event is focused on hurricane preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation. Panels are focused on a variety of sectors, including technological developments, communications, forecasting, federal mitigation programs, public-private partnerships, and more. One particularly exciting development this year is the presence of the Territory’s emergency management agency, VITEMA, on several panels. On Monday, Assistant Director Barbara Petersen, Deputy Director for Planning and Preparedness Regina Browne, Deputy Director of Operations Bruce Kelly, and Public Information Officer Erik Ackerson led a panel on local emergency response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Their presentation highlighted some of the challenges the Territory faced, as well as the many successes of VITEMA and the VI Department of Health over the last two years. On Tuesday, Assistant Director Petersen and Deputy Director Browne hosted a panel focused on the Territory’s Hazard Mitigation & Resilience Plan. They were joined by Dr Greg Guannel, Director of the Green Caribbean Center at the University of the Virgin Islands. The robust discussion addressed climate change, infrastructure, and the need for systemic solutions to complex problems in the Territory. Wednesday afternoon is dedicated to the NHC General Session. This event will include an appearance by FEMA Administrator Deanna Criswell as well as an Equity in Disasters panel. The Territory’s own Regina Browne is a panelist for the Equity in Disasters session. Along with her, a diverse group of representatives from emergency management organizations and nonprofits will discuss the importance of planning to ensure equity in disaster response. While the VITEMA panels have certainly been relevant to our work at LCS, other opportunities abound. The NHC provides an invaluable chance to network with emergency managers, federal responders, vendors and subject matter experts from across the country. While each disaster is unique, there’s a great deal we can learn from the experiences of other communities, and we hope that our experiences are valuable to them as well. I am thrilled to be back at the National Hurricane Conference this year, and am already looking forward to next year’s meeting in New Orleans.
If you were in the Virgin Islands this morning, you likely got an alert on your phone indicating the start of the 2022 Caribe Wave tsunami drill. The phone alert would have come from FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert & Warning Systems (IPAWS), as well as VITEMA’s VI Alerts. This year’s Caribe Wave tsunami drill was based on a scenario in which an 8.0 earthquake struck off the west coast of Puerto Rico, triggering a tsunami that will impact the U.S. Virgin Islands. The goal of the annual drill is to mimic real world response to a disaster of this kind. What is a tsunami? A tsunami is a large wave caused by an underground or undersea disturbance such as an earthquake. They can move at speeds of 30 mph or more, and make landfall with waves reaching anywhere from 10 to 100 feet in height. The entire Caribbean region is considered to have high levels of vulnerability and threat for tsunamis. Since 1842, more than 3,500 people have lost their lives to tsunamis in the Caribbean. Significant population growth and tourism impacts in low-lying coastal areas in recent years only increase the region’s vulnerability. What should you do in the event of an earthquake and tsunami? When you feel an earthquake, you should “Drop, Cover, and Hold” for the duration of the earthquake. When the shaking has passed, proceed according to tsunami evacuation plans. According to VITEMA, this means ascending to a minimum of 82′ above sea level, or greater than 2 miles inland. As an example, the first floor of the Marketplace is located 50 feet above sea level, so the LCS evacuation protocol takes us to the area behind the third floor office suites. It’s a good idea to identify the elevation of your home, office, or school in advance, and then locate the nearest, highest ground as an evacuation point if needed. How can I be more prepared? First, be alert to signs of a tsunami, such as a sudden rise or draining of sea waters. Subscribe to emergency information and alerts in your area, and turn on government alerts on your smart phone. Always follow instructions from local emergency managers. Know and practice community evacuation plans. Map out your routes from home, work, and play. Visit VITEMA’s website to see the tsunami evacuation zones in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and learn your nearest evacuation rally point. Create a family emergency communication plan that has an out-of-territory contact. Plan where you will meet if you get separated. Finally, consider earthquake insurance and a flood insurance policy. Standard homeowner’s insurance does not cover flood or earthquake damage. To learn more about tsunami preparedness and the annual Caribe Wave tsunami drill, visit Tsunamizone.org, and check out the tsunami and earthquake related resources at VITEMA.vi.gov.