Residents were reminded that it’s again time to be ready for hurricane season at a V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency Expo on Friday afternoon at the Cruz Bay waterfront on St. John.
"I think complacency has already set in," said VITEMA Director Elton Lewis. "We haven’t had a major storm in 20 years, but you never know. We have to be prepared."
VITEMA hosted expos across the territory this week to mark the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s observance of National Hurricane Preparedness Week. In Cruz Bay, VITEMA’s Expo included a DJ, raffle prize giveaways and information from a number of agencies and organizations.
Innovative Telephone officials were on hand sharing information about what do in case of emergencies; Water and Power Authority representatives showcased the dangers of fallen electrical wires; V.I. Fire Service personnel shared information regarding fire safety and prevention; and Department of Health sent an official from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to share information about avoiding mosquito-born diseases.
Residents should protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing long pants when possible, emptying any standing water containers around the home and wearing bug repellent, Shayla Anderson of the CDC explained.
"We are here to share important information about protecting yourself from mosquito-born diseases including dengue fever and chikungunya," said Anderson.
“Chikungunya is transmitted by two types of mosquitos both found here,” she said. “It is transmitted by an infected mosquito and causes severe joint pain, high fever and a rash."
The best defense against the disease is to avoid being bitten, Anderson explained.
"Wear bug repellent, wear long sleeves and pants when you can," she advised. "Keep tires in a dry place and don’t allow water to collect on your property. Make sure your screens are in good condition or at least sleep with a mosquito net."
Anyone with symptoms they think might be chikungunya should see a doctor for blood tests, Anderson said. "If you suspect you have chikungunya, go to a doctor and have them draw blood to test for the disease," she said.
"Doctors are required to report chikungunya and the information helps us keep track of the number of people affected by this disease."
Lewis explained that the expo was a way for the agency to remind residents that hurricane season begins on June 1 and to be prepared with at least five days of supplies in case of emergencies.
Lewis said, "At the start of every hurricane season we try to have an event to remind people that we’re in this time of year again. Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 and we have to be prepared. We have different federal and local government agencies here sharing information about their services and what they can provide in the case of an emergency."
"We are here primarily for educational outreach of awareness," Lewis said. "Our big emphasis is that people should be as self-sufficient as possible this time of year."
While residents in hurricane affected areas stateside are told to have emergency supplies to last for at least 72 hours, in the islands that number goes up to a five-day emergency kit, Lewis explained.
"In the states they say a three-day supply is sufficient but in the islands were recommend a five-day emergent kit," said Lewis. "That means you need water, any medications, food, baby formula and pet food to last at least five days. And don’t forget to have some cash on hand as the ATMs won’t work and credit card machines will be down during emergencies."
While VITEMA’s expo included DJ music and giveaways, the main point was to share important information with the public, Lewis said.
"In order to be eligible for our giveaways, you have to listen to what we have to say," he said. "You have to hear our information and hopefully start getting prepared as we enter hurricane season this year."