Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) director Allan Stewart believes that with the ongoing threat of covid19, the island may require additional shelters to house people during the hurricane season.
“At this stage, we are seeing a situation that with covid19, it poses a particular type of challenge where numbers in confined spaces such as shelters, we require additional space,” he said on Wednesday during the post executive council news conference at Scarborough Library.
Stewart said shelters on the island are categorised into primary, secondary and alternatives.
Primary shelters are usually community centres while secondary shelters are schools and churches, respectively.
Stewart said the schools and churches are yet to be truly tested as shelters.
“And, therefore, at this stage, having only 80 buildings on the island that have been identified and designated as shelters that fall into these three categories, we are picturing something up the road that we need to pay attention to. It means, therefore, we need to look for more space.”
Stewart said schools and churches may have to play a key role if Tobago is hit with a major hurricane.
He said TEMA will be reaching out to volunteers from the Division of Education, Innovation and Energy and churches to begin training in shelter management.
“The issue of shelters is not complete if you did not add management to it and, therefore, having an open space does not guarantee that you have in-shelter management.
“Just opening a space for people to sleep and occupy, that is chaos, especially in light of covid19.”
Stewart said shelters will now be governed by new regulations about how to manage spaces.
He said buildings that once accommodated 100 people will now hold 60.
“If you have to find spaces for the additional 40, you have to look for numbers to manage these facilities.
“So, I am using this platform to make an appeal for those of you who want to give of yourselves and your services, managers of schools, that these schools may be called upon during a period where we will want to have access.”
Stewart said the TT Red Cross has already begun online training for volunteers in Trinidad and TEMA will be organising similar exercises in Tobago by the end of the month.
Stewart said there are already 13 to 19 named storms, six of which are likely to develop into hurricanes.