Red Cross volunteers ready for hurricane season

| 19/06/2019
CNS Local Life
Eddie Tinling-Miller of Red Cross speaks to volunteers about hurricane preparedness

(CNS Local Life): The Cayman Islands Red Cross (CIRC) recently held its annual pre-hurricane meeting, with almost 100 old and new volunteers learning about the organisation’s role as a response agency and auxiliary to government. Held every year ahead of hurricane season, the meeting gives the Red Cross the opportunity to refresh information for returning volunteers and educate new ones.

“Cayman is a transient society, and as such we always have large numbers of new volunteers who are unaware of the magnitude of the tasks that the Red Cross undertakes in times of disasters,” said branch director Jondo Obi in a press release. “Our organisation runs additional programmes, like First Aid, the Thrift Shop and Child Protection and Sexuality Education, so it’s important to let all volunteers know that should a disaster hit it is all hands on deck.”

Eddie Tinling-Miller, disaster management programme manager, reviewed last year’s hurricane season for the volunteers, calling it “significant”. Recounting 2018’s major hurricanes, Florence and Michael, he said, “these two were together responsible for over 170 fatalities in the region, and caused damages estimated to cost close to 50 billion USD. These storms serve as a reminder to always be alert, connected and most importantly – prepared.”

John Tibbetts, director general of the Cayman Islands National Weather Service, gave CIRC volunteers an oversight of the 2018 season and predictions for 2019, explaining the scientific analysis behind hurricanes and best practices prior to, during, and immediately following an impact.

Volunteers were reminded that general preparedness at the individual level and having a family disaster plan is as vital as any organisation’s disaster plan. “If you haven’t done so, go home and discuss this with your families,” said Tinling-Miller. “Decide if you’re going to be here or if you’re going off island. If you are staying here, where are you going to stay? Do you know if you live in an area where evacuation is mandatory? Can you stay with friends or will you be going to a shelter? All of these questions need answers, and you must include your family members in this discussion.”

Also emphasised was having additional medication for the aftermath of the storm as well as knowing blood types for family members. “It’s something that is so simple, but so easy to forget,” said Tinling-Miller. “If records are unavailable or systems are down, this can be life-saving information, so make sure that all of your medical records, just like your passports, insurance information and other crucial documents, are scanned, copied and are stored safely in a water-proof container.”

Lastly, participants received a full rundown of tasks and activities that the Red Cross undertakes in the event of a hurricane and volunteers were asked not only to think about those roles but also which ones they would be able to undertake.

“Red Cross volunteers play a vital role prior to, during and in the aftermath of an emergency,” Tinling-Miller explained. “The work begins once there is a hurricane warning: we are the first shelter to open in Grand Cayman, and we also make it a point to assist the most vulnerable the best we can by helping the elderly and disabled population sandbag their homes.”

Among other tasks that Red Cross volunteers undertake are:

  • assisting in the evacuation of flood-prone zones
  • managing the CIRC shelter
  • providing first aid coverage at all non-emergency shelters in Grand Cayman
  • conducting damage and needs assessment following a storm
  • providing first aid support for the public at the headquarters
  • assisting with search-and-rescue efforts
  • relief distribution
  • connecting families via the Restoring Family Links programme

“Those of us who were here in 2004 remember the devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan,” said Tinling-Miller. “But since then, we’ve learned and adapted, and are now more prepared than ever – not just as individuals or as family units, but also as a community. As CIRC volunteers, our job is to ensure the resilience or our homes and communities, and to be ready to assist at all times.”

He reminded volunteers to first ensure their home is prepared and well stocked – with water (a gallon a day per person), non-perishable food items, medication and special dietary items if needed, battery-operated lighting, extra batteries and personal safety and sanitation items.

“The 2018 hurricane season was catastrophic for the Eastern Caribbean region, and although we were not directly affected by it, the Red Cross learned important lessons from our colleagues, which were put in place with our volunteers here,” Obi said. “We will continue to enhance our efforts in preparedness and mitigation so as to ensure that our communities are resilient.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have dedicated volunteers who do so much for our community, but the more each of us takes on the responsibility to prepare ourselves and our families, the better off the country will be.”

For more information about the Red Cross, to get assistance in writing a family disaster plan or to register as a volunteer, email or call 949-6785

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Category: Community, Local News, Service Organisations, Weather

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