The Center for Caribbean Resilience and Sustainability (CCRS) commits to help seniors in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) be better prepared for the 2019 hurricane season by facilitating emergency preparedness trainings for approximately 2,970 seniors.
Through these trainings, CCRS will improve seniors’ awareness of local resources such as emergency shelters, work with them to develop a personalized emergency plans that consider their medical needs and the potential need to evacuate, outline their support network and help seniors build a “go bag” to support their overall emergency needs. To ensure that the seniors can participate in the ongoing trainings they will take place at senior facilities and senior centers, making them more accessible to the population. CCRS will work with the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services (VIDHS) to raise awareness for the trainings. To incentivize seniors to attend the trainings, CCRS will provide each of them with materials for a “go bag,” including a mobile solar operated light, batteries, handheld radio, emergency blanket and first aid supplies.
CCRS will manage the overall operations including marketing, coordinating facilities and trainers and fundraising and procuring donations for the “go bags.” CCRS will work with FEMA and/or VITEMA to provide trainers and develop the content, adapting their existing preparedness curriculums. Bloomberg Philanthropies will work to coordinate connections with other jurisdictions, such as New York City, that have developed trainings tailored to the senior population.
This program will provide a stop gap for the 2019 hurricane season, however CCRS will work to transition the subsequent trainings and training materials to the local government to ensure that seniors continue to receive preparedness trainings.
CCRS will measure the impact of the program by how many seniors participate in the training, as well as administer a post-training survey to gauge the effectiveness of the trainings based on the increase in knowledge and self-reported change in behavior.
May – June 2019: Build Target Partnerships. Identify and solidify partners i.e. Red Cross, AARP, and their roles; Work closely with partners to outline training scope and outcomes; Finalize target training sites, including of community centers, senior homes and senior care programs; Outreach to potential funders and secure funding and or in-kind donations for “go bags.”
July – December 2019: Program Implementation. Continue outreach and marketing; Deliver training (2 sessions a week averaging 45 people per session for 33 weeks).
December 2019: Transition to the local government
According to the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services (VIDHS) there are 6,300 elderly citizens who are considered vulnerable due to their dependence on government services. Some of the client programs for the elderly include: homes for the elderly, which provide 24-hour care; senior centers, which provide a communal setting for senior activities; meals on wheels, which sends out hot meals to homebound seniors; and home care takers, which assists seniors with daily activities like cleaning, cooking and laundry. These services are primarily provided by VIDHS with the support of local non-profits. After the hurricanes, senior centers on both St. Thomas and St. Croix were closed for several months and reopened in temporary facilities. Meals on wheels and home care taker programs were also temporarily suspended for two to five days. Homes for the elderly experienced physical damage but continued operating.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria increased demands for the social services provided by VIDHS and the supporting non-profits. However, most organizations – including government agencies – have had reduced capacity and have focused on rebuilding and returning the community to normalcy. Over a year and half after the hurricanes the homes of many elderly continue to be vulnerable, with the senior homes awaiting community development grants to fund repairs and individual homes pending support from local housing rebuild programs. Senior facilities still lack central air conditioning, back-up generators and updated electrical wiring.
Despite the increased vulnerability of seniors there have been limited preparedness education initiatives. The few programs that do exist have finite resources and have focused primarily on educating youth. Preparedness trainings provide individuals with the knowledge of how to better equip themselves to prepare for, respond to and mitigate against the next emergency. For vulnerable individuals taking action ahead of time can be a matter of life or death.