Wednesday, September 6, 2017
By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
WITH Hurricane Irma looming on the horizon, the National Sports Authority is doing all it can to ensure that the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium is in tip-top shape so that it can serve as a storm shelter.
NSA manager Jeffery Beckles said staff members are busy completing the necessary preparations before they open their doors to the public.
“By tomorrow (today), we will be fully ready to receive any designated person,” Beckles said. “As we speak, we are about 70 per cent ready.”
Originally, the new Thomas A Robinson National Stadium was to be designed by the People’s Republic of China as a hurricane shelter, but that didn’t work out, so Beckles said they have been able to utilise the gym because of the adequate space inside.
Last October, Hurricane Matthew hit the Bahamas and the gymnasium served its purpose as a shelter. Beckles said they intend to see the equal level of preparation and usage for the gymnasium over the next week or so.
“Last year we had just over 400 patrons, which was a heavy number,” he said. “But this year, I think we will probably see several hundred, depending on when the storm actually turns north, which will dictate how people will respond in Nassau.
“Nonetheless, we are preparing for a full house of about 400 people or more.”
While their responsibility will only be to prepare the gymnasium, Beckles said the Department of Social Services will manage the shelter.
“We just have to properly prepare it and make sure that the proper protection is put down and the security is put into place,” he said. “We do have a security team, who will stay with the shelter as long as it stays open. They will be there to help familiarise the people from the Department of Social Services on how it functions.
“Once the gym becomes ready and is available for use, our job will become support for the Department of Social Services, who act as shelter managers.”
“We are encouraging people, if there is a legitimate need, to take advantage of the shelter because it’s there to provide your safety,” he said.
“From Hurricane Matthew, there are still a lot of homes that are vulnerable so we are asking and encouraging people if you live in a low-lying area that you know floods typically, if you live in a home that was threatened or damaged, then come to the shelter.
“We are encouraging everyone to pay attention to where your nearest shelter is and if you fall into one of those categories, or you have someone who is senior or disabled, go ahead and get into a shelter very quickly.”
At the gymnasium, Beckles said he knows that the Department of Social Services will have sleeping cots, blankets and the necessary items needed, but he’s advising them to bring their own personal items when they come.
“You’re not going to a lunch area, you are going to a facility that is safe structurally and sound,” he said. “So the expectations is that everyone coming will bring their little care package and whatever food they need.
“It’s not a hotel. It’s a place that has been deemed safe by NEMA, so that is what we are encouraging people to do. Don’t come to the shelter and expect for people to provide you with a blanket and pillow and sleeping bag or cot. If you have them bring them with you.”
In cases of emergency, Beckles said the persons coming into the shelter will be accommodated, but he warned that it’s not going to be a situation where they will be able to provide for everybody.