More than 200 people have volunteered to help out at hurricane shelters this year. - Photo: Ken Silva

On Tuesday night at John Gray High School, Department of Children and Family Services Deputy Director Paulinda Mendoza-Williams asked a roomful of more than 200 people what was the one thing they’d bring to a hurricane shelter in the event of a Category 5 storm.

“I’ll make sure I come with my first aid kit,” said one man, followed by others who said they’d bring medication, passports, toothbrushes and flashlights.

Ms. Mendoza-Williams’s thought experiment kicked off a two-day training session for the more than 200 volunteers who have signed up to open, operate and close the territory’s hurricane shelters.

After one of the most devastating hurricane seasons in recorded history last year, the number of volunteers in Cayman has risen from 169 in 2017 to 229 this year.

The trainees included nurses, people who work at retirement homes, and those who just want to lend a helping hand.

“Instead of sitting there not doing anything [in the aftermath of a hurricane], you’re there to make sure the needs of others are being met,” one woman responded, when asked why she volunteered.

After the two-day course, there will also be a third day of training at the end of the month for those who are selected as shelter managers and district representatives. These people will undergo intensive scenario-based training, as their roles will require them to do more.

Along with training on running the shelters, the session also included information on child protection matters. The Department of Children and Family Services and Hazard Management Cayman Islands are also identifying volunteers with special skills in electrical work, plumbing, carpentry, etc., to ensure that each shelter has capacity within its volunteer group to deal with issues that may arise during a storm.

Home Affairs Minister Tara Rivers spoke before the training began, thanking the volunteers for their service to the community.

“Managing a shelter during a disaster is a big responsibility, and your decision to volunteer in this role demonstrates caring and compassion for your fellow human beings,” Ms. Rivers said, adding, “While we all hope that this hurricane season is uneventful, if there is a need to open the shelters at any point, I encourage you to do your best to treat everyone who arrives in the same way that you would want one of your loved ones to be treated – with dignity, respect and kindness.”