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USVI Residents Must ‘Shelter In Place’ If A Hurricane Strikes Because Of Social Distancing Requirements

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — The U.S. Virgin Islands sheltering capacity will be “limited” at the start of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season due to American Red Cross physical distancing requirements brought about by the advent of COVID-19 in December, authorities said.

The territory’s lead emergency agencies said this weekend they are coordinating their efforts to react in unison to potential windstorm events beginning June 1, the official start of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season is off to an early start with May already seeing two named Tropical Storms, Arthur and Bertha, however, due to on-going and frequent planning efforts, the territory’s agencies’ preparations and mitigation plans remain organized for this hurricane season which is also layered with a COVID-19 pandemic.

The Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) hosted a half day tabletop exercise last week which identified key gaps of sheltering limitations, communication systems, and the order of operations.

Through identified gaps it was determined that shelter capacity will be limited this year due to the American Red Cross social distancing sheltering
requirements and the challenge to recruit the ideal and typical number of volunteers persists.

“It is imperative that our faith communities, our local businesses and our not-for-profit community all come together to identify new, safe, innovative ways to prepare and shelter safely this year,” Department of Human Services Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez said. “More than ever, we need our community to do what Virgin Islanders do best and reach out to support your family, friends and neighbors so that as many people as possible can safely shelter in place.”

Virgin Islands Fire Services (VIFS) and the Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) will be ready to serve in the event of a storm, and the agency is prepared to deploy personnel to conduct search and rescue operations, assist with clearing routes and brush cutting, and provide general support for disaster response and recovery efforts.

For most storms threatening the territory, Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. will declare a State of Emergency and implement hours of curfew, which means shelter in place to protect the lives of individuals before, during, and after the storm.

Additionally, the Virgin Islands Police Department establishes traffic control points to minimize the risk of unsafe driving conditions and checking for curfew violators.

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