Emergency Shelter Preparednessplanning ahead // on Thursday February 16, 2017
Tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, hurricanes, floods and winter storms: These are all natural disasters that, recently, we’ve heard about much too often. In 2016, 103 natural disasters were declared across the United States. Among those were Hurricane Matthew, Hurricane Hermine, wildfires in Tennessee and severe storms, to name a few. So far in 2017, there have already been 11 natural disasters declared – nine of which were severe storms.
We hope that none of these natural disasters strike in our communities, but if they do, how will your organization respond? Some churches and nonprofit organizations open their doors to those directly affected by natural disasters, and your organization may choose to provide shelter, too. Before you declare your facility an emergency shelter, work with your local and state government to ensure adequate preparedness for all elements of an emergency shelter and review the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Nation Disaster Housing Strategy.
Here are some key steps and considerations to keep in mind when turning your facility into an emergency shelter:
Prepare Your Building
Do the following so your emergency shelter is safe, secure and guest-ready:
- Research local laws and ask about requirements for establishing a local emergency shelter.
- Work with the fire department to determine the maximum occupancy of your facility.
- Analyze the layout of your facility, determining a plan in the event of an emergency and adequately communicating the plan to staff and volunteers.
- See that all exits are marked and are not obstructed.
- Limit guest-accessible areas and secure remaining areas around the building.
Stock Up on Supplies
As an emergency shelter, your organization will need to supply individuals and families with many resources. Confirm that you have the proper disaster supplies, including food, water, blankets, personal care products, etc. And be sure your first-aid kit is fully stocked.
Train Staff and Volunteers
Your emergency shelter will heavily rely on staff and volunteers to maintain guest health and safety. Here are considerations for coordinating your team of staff and volunteers so that everyone is well aware of safety and security guidelines:
- Establish a supervision schedule for volunteers and staff, and see that at least two volunteers are awake and monitoring activity at all times.
- Continuously monitor all entrances and exits.
- Only allow those trained in food safety to supervise kitchen activity.
- Plan a response to persons contracting a communicable disease or coming to the shelter seriously ill.
- Inspect and monitor walking surfaces to prevent slips, trips and falls.
- Plan accordingly for guests with special needs or disabilities.
Basic rules for an emergency shelter should include the following:
- No alcohol or illegal drugs are permitted on the premises.
- No weapons of any kind are permitted on the premises.
- No violence or verbal abuse will be tolerated.
- No admittance after 10 p.m.
- A quiet sleeping time will be maintained by 11 p.m.
- No smoking in the building.
- Children must remain with their parent(s) or guardian(s) at all times.
- Candles, camping lanterns, oil lamps and other open flames are prohibited.
- Individuals who violate any rules will be asked to leave the shelter.