The Cayman Islands Red Cross recently gathered 100 volunteers to take part in the annual pre-hurricane meeting. That meeting gives the Red Cross a chance to brief new and existing volunteers and to provide information on the organization’s role as a relief agency and auxiliary to government.
“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 Jondo Obi, branch manager of the Cayman Islands Red Cross. “Our organization runs additional programs, 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.”
The meeting began with a review of what happened last year. Last year’s Atlantic region had 16 named storms, six of which were tropical storms, four were hurricanes and six were major hurricanes. Because of the volume of storms and the proportion of major events, Red Cross volunteers are reminded that general preparedness at the individual level and having a family disaster plan are both vital to survival.
“If you haven’t done so, go home and discuss this with your families,” Ms. Obi said. “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.”
Families are advised to have additional medication in the aftermath of the storm and also to know the blood types of their family members. Meeting participants received a full rundown of tasks and activities that the Red Cross undertakes and volunteers were asked to think about where they might be a good fit.
The Red Cross begins its responsibilities as soon as a storm warning materializes. Red Cross volunteers also help the elderly and disabled population of Cayman prepare for storms by sandbagging their homes.
Red Cross volunteers also assist in the evacuation of flood-prone zones, manage the shelter and provide first aid coverage at all non-emergency shelters in Grand Cayman. The Red Cross also conducts damage and needs assessments following a storm, provides first aid support for the public, assists with search-and-rescue efforts and connects families via the Restoring Family Links program.
“The 2017 hurricane season was catastrophic, and just because we were not directly affected by it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn the lessons from those who were,” Ms. Obi said. “We must continue to enhance our efforts in preparedness and mitigation so as to ensure that we are resilient should we be faced with the same challenges that the Eastern Caribbean encountered last year. We are incredibly fortunate to have such 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.”