Love City Strong’s recovery and relief projects have evolved organically to address multiple community needs that are not presently addressed by other organizations. Our goals are to fill these gaps as we encounter them, create long term solutions that are scalable to other areas in the region, and leverage the community’s talents to get the job done.
In conversations about what it means to be prepared and resilient, LCS decided to focus on what worked best for St. John in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma; recreating these systems in a more structured and manageable fashion. We have established secure supply storage facilities in 3 areas across the island; established an annual, stand-by road clearing team ready to deploy in the event of a disaster; established annual preparedness campaigns for St. John’s at-risk residents, and established an annual, stand-by expansion of our Go Team ready to deploy for door-to-door wellness check and supply distribution in the event of a disaster. Our teams have received extensive training from Nationally Certified Fire Service Instructors and Emergency Medical Service Instructors; the USVI Department of Health; the Virgin Islands Public Safety-Support Foundation; FEMA, and VITEMA to be effective in a variety of response situations.
A pervasive issue that has long affected St. John is the delayed response to emergencies by emergency workers, such as our Fire Department and EMS. This is due to a variety of factors including the island’s inherent topographical challenges; poor cell phone and data service that make it difficult for residents and dispatch centers to connect with one another; outdated mapping of public roads, parcels and land estates; a lack of mapping for the majority of private roads and structures; the fact that response agencies are largely understaffed or underfunded; and the fact that a large portion of their labor force is comprised of non-residents who may be unfamiliar with the island’s streets, landmarks, and terrain.
In 2019, we seeks to bridge these gaps and connect emergency workers with residents through community outreach and data gathering. Right now, our Go Team is traveling across the island and going door-to-door offering several services to residents that may make it easier for first responders to find them. These include painting addresses in reflective or black paint; installing easy to use, waterproof, emergency red flashing lights to be installed outside a home; and providing complimentary File of Life cards. The team is also collecting important data that will be used by first responders to locate at-risk residents in the event of a natural disaster.
EMERGENCY RESPONSE + SUPPORT
In 2018, LCS began the Water Quality Project aimed at testing and raising awareness of cistern water quality for some of the island’s most vulnerable residents (seniors, low-income families, single parent families, pregnant women, and residents with a disability or nonemergency medical need). From February 2018 to October 2018, our water scientists visited and tested the cistern water of over 200 homes at no cost to the residents. Alarmingly, a vast majority of our tests showed a high presence of harmful E.Coli bacteria, which places these vulnerable residents at a severe health risk. Our testing data drove us to seek funding for long-term solutions.
In 2019, Love City Strong was granted funding from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy to provide and install new UV and Carbon filtration systems on 50 residential cisterns belonging to individuals whose test results continuously showed a high-risk of contamination in the first project phase. This project will create long term health benefits for these high-risk individuals, have a positive economic impact for them as they reduce their dependence on bottled water, and reduce the strain on St. John’s fragile waste management system over time.
Additionally, after sharing our testing results and methodology with the CDC and EPA, it was determined that Love City Strong’s project data will be used to adjust federal policy and procedures currently in place when responding to natural disasters in areas such as the Caribbean basin. By sharing this information with our federal partners, LCS hopes to have residential cisterns recognized by the federal government as “an essential part of infrastructure,” eligible for federal mitigation funding after a natural disaster, and continuous government subsidy programs for low or fixed income individuals.
Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the majority of homes on St. John still have some degree of mold, ranging from minor to extensive. With help from the National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors (NORMI), LCS hired, trained, and professionally licensed a crew of St. John residents who worked hard sanitizing homes belonging to full-time residents who were seniors, low-income families, single-parent families, pregnant women, or residents with a disability or a nonemergency medical need. The project ended in March 2018, and successfully served 158 different homes on St. John, giving them healthier home environments free of harmful mold and mold spores.
Love City Strong is not accepting volunteers for ongoing projects at this time.