City of Freeport Chief Councillor, Kendal Culmer and Pinder’s Point Township Chairman, Jackie Russell are admonishing all residents living in lower lying areas to evacuate their homes or they will be left behind.
During an interview Thursday (August 29) the pair, in their respective posts, visited residential areas prone to flooding and are pleading with residents to answer the call of evacuation.
Culmer said and his team have met with NEMA executives and are prepping persons to stay safe.
He understands that homeowners may get comfortable when staying in their homes; however, Culmer noted the strength of a storm changes periodically.
“I felt saddened and distraught when Hurricane Dorian was coming to the island. We are still in recovery mode from Hurricane Francis and Jeanne, so I look at this as another possible step back in moving forward and trying to grow the economy. However, I hope we don’t have as much damage as we did in the past, from the previous hurricane.
“Persons in low lying areas need to take the warnings more seriously, because every year they get these warnings and the police, the Fire Department and NEMA always let it be known that once the storm is down, you are actually stuck until it passes and it is clear. If you have survived and didn’t go through much in the previous hurricanes, it doesn’t mean anything because storms periodically change,” Culmer said.
“If you have a hurricane that passes in the night, it makes it more difficult for a search and rescue and NEMA said they are not coming out when they give you a warning to move.
“If you don’t move you are literally on your own, because you are putting persons in danger. If you call at 3:00 a.m. and say your house is in four foot of water, that person that is coming to save you is now in danger when you had the previous day to take yourself out of harm’s way,” he added.
Questioned about councillors alerting persons to relocate Culmer said, “All of the councillors met with the NEMA Board prior to and this isn’t their first alert when addressing a hurricane. So, they know the formalities, they know to go through the community and give a separate warning, and a more personal one-on-one warning.
“I have spoken to a few of them (councillors) and they have already done that.”
Culmer also advised persons to purchase necessary essentials and remain in safe areas during the weekend.
“Everyone who is getting ready for the hurricane should have at least a gallon of water for three days per person. They should have non-perishable items for three days and keep all documents, passports and birth certificates in a secure place.
“You may look at your house as safe and sound, but you should always have an evacuation plan because anything can happen in a storm,” he added.
Russell said, persons are to become more concerned for their well-being, instead of property.
She noted that it is sad that persons are not taking the storm as serious, and hopes residents change their minds on remaining in their homes.
“I would say we have been through four hurricanes and I would think that persons in this community would know that this is an evacuation call, which means if an evacuation order is sent out, they need to leave their homes.
“During my walkabout this afternoon, I was visiting most persons who are challenged or bedridden to see what plans they have. I wanted to let them know that in the event this hurricane comes our way, we are in a position to assist with moving them.
“There were a few who are comfortable, but I told them during the storm we will not be sending out any rescuers to assist them and if they stay then they stay at their own risk.
“It is sad that they don’t heed the warning” she added.
“Most persons in the community do seek shelter or locate to family members, but there are a few who would stay and all I can say to them is be prepared and advise them to have all their papers and documents in place if rescuers cannot get to them. Nobody will be going out to them once they have been warned,” Russell stated.
When asked the reason persons opt to stay in their homes, Russell said, “I think they think about the material things that they possess and they always have this mentality ‘the storm isn’t going to come and stay.’ But if they want to stay there, then it as at their peril. However, in the event they have to evacuate, I think we would have to call the police in to assist us with that.
“When Hurricane Matthew came down, we had to do that with someone and a handicap person really did not want to move. They are just so comfortable and they pray to God nothing would happen. But this is the mentality they have taken. We only can tell them hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
“Most persons are just taking it easy that they are going to sit and watch the storm, but this is a fast-moving storm, so once it comes they need to prepare to evacuate” said Russell.
“However, I am happy to say the St. George’s Gym is now back on the shelter list, seeing that most of the persons in the area were transported there for assistance.
“But I want to encourage persons to evacuate when the call is made. This storm is nothing to play with,” said Russell.