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Sheltering persons affected by disaster is a responsibility of the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis and is facilitated by the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA. Shelters are located throughout the islands and are selected, via a number of procedures, by the Housing and Shelter Sub-Committee which is responsible for their upkeep and management during an event or times of disaster.

“Firstly, these buildings are not hurricane shelters, as assumed by many. They are selected and prepared to house individuals in need of sheltering, no matter the origin of the impact or disaster”, Oureika Lennon-Petty, NEMA’s Planning Officer, said.

Gene Knight, the Sub-Committee Convener, says that the public might be surprised by the lengths his team goes to in order to ensure that shelters are ready to accept persons whose home settings may have been disrupted.

“Shelter selection is not an easy process, nor are the procedures taken lightly by our committee,” he said.

According to Mr. Knight, the selection process often challenges his committee in terms of meeting the required reporting protocols as defined in the National Disaster Plan.

“Our committee is comprehensive but because we are sometimes challenged by the reporting guidelines and timelines for dissemination of the List, NEMA, through Mrs. Lennon-Petty has provided training in the Kobo Collect Application, so that the procedures may be simplified.”

The selection process includes identifying and assessing all potential buildings, conducting the necessary repairs and reporting on the progress to the NEMA. A report is subsequently submitted to Cabinet for approval, and followed by public dissemination.

“What we have sought to do,” Lennon-Petty adds, “is to provide training for committee members using the Kobo Collect App, which is extremely user friendly, members need only have a smart phone in order to collect and share data and that minimises the reporting timelines.”

Kobo Collect is an Open Data Kit that is used for primary data collection in humanitarian emergencies and other field environments. Users are able to enter data from interviews or other sources, both offline and online.

Following a training exercise at the St. Peter’s Community Centre on Wednesday, 5th February, Mrs. Petty said that the session was very successful, with participation of the Housing and Shelter Sub-Committee members, Volunteers from District #8, Committee Convener, Gene Knight and Mrs. Ann Wigley from the Ministry of Community Development. The training will be extended to all NEMA District Managers with responsibility for Shelter Assessment and Selection, in the near future.