Author: Naveed Anwar

Introduction

Shelters provide an interim replacement for the basic needs of residents affected by disasters and emergencies until they or their community are able to support a return to normal living conditions.

A shelter facility either can be designed or constructed solely as a shelter or it can be either used for emergency or for a post disaster situation. Emergency shelters are used when a hazard warning is issued, or a hazard is imminent, such as a hurricane, storm, flood or expected landslide or fire, when there is sufficient time to move the people to these shelters before or during the event.

A post disaster shelter is needed to accommodate people who may have lost their homes after a disaster or an event that may require a longer duration relocation into these shelters. It provides a means to a safe, sanitary, and secure environment.

Shelters must be designed and evaluated for higher standards compared to buildings with normal occupancy, as they are often essential during and after an extreme event when the buildings and other structures may become unsafe or un-usable. These shelters not only need to remain intact but operational and serviceable so they are able to handle additional live loads and demands due to the large number of people packed together along with their belongings.

The preferable solution to providing protection to residents is to build a new, separate building specifically designed and constructed to serve as a shelter. A potential advantage of a stand-alone shelter is its safe location, positioned away from potential hazards. However, incorporating the shelter into an existing building or a planned renovation or building project may reduce the shelter cost and may be easily accessible for area residents.

For wind storms and hurricane shelters, buildings must have strong roofs and cladding walls with doors and windows with proper locking and shutters. The shelter criteria may include requirements for multiple hazards, for example flood and hurricane, and or landslide and volcanic eruption.  The criteria must also include considerations for accessibility to communities, duration of occupancy, security, proper ventilation, emergency escapes/exits, storage provisions for food, water and first-aids.

Primarily, shelters should be located outside of high-risk flood areas. When this is not possible, the structures should be located in the least hazardous portion of the area subject to flooding. Flood shelters need to be at higher elevation or buildings with habitable floors well above the expected flood level and strong enough to withstand the water currents and debris flow. Other flood design criteria for shelters can be referred to the Use Case Book Chapter 2 section 2.3 Guidelines for incorporating landslide and flood hazards in building construction.

The final shelter can be designated based on the recommendation of the evaluation agency. This may involve using the building as-is, or with recommended retrofit/modification. If proposed building(s) is found unsuitable, the evaluation agency may recommend to select an alternate building. This evaluation can be carried out using a basic site survey and multiple considerations. The evaluation process can also be formalized using Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP)[1] to reduce subjectivity in the process.

[1] The Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) is a multi-criteria decision-making approach which can be used to solve complex decision problems. It uses a multi-level hierarchical structure of objectives, criteria, sub criteria, and alternatives.

 

Methodology

The overall process starts by first considering the types(s) of scenarios use-cases of shelters needed to be considered. There are many scenarios in which a shelter may be needed or may be used. Each scenario needs to be evaluated for its possible applicability for various hazards for a community. Some of the typical scenarios relevant to OECS countries.  

Scenario 1:

Short term emergency in which shelter itself is not exposed to hazard.

Possible hazards are:

  • Fire in nearby building
  • Temporary security or safety risk
  • A building or buildings in the community are damaged or become unusable by causes not directly related to natural hazards.

Possible Consequences:

This may be a possible scenario in many instances, as it covers both man-made and natural hazards and disasters. A simple designation of a school or church or other facility and by providing appropriate support and training can help to handle short time emergencies.

Scenario 2:

Emergency shelters from natural hazard that may also effect the shelter building itself.

Possible hazards are:

  • Flood
  • Hurricane, storms, blizzards
  • Landslide, (local or minor)
  • Volcanic eruptions (minor effect)

Possible Consequences:

This scenario may be most likely to occur, especially in the Caribbean states, where flood, landslides, and hurricane hazards are high and frequent. Effective preparation for this scenario may be considered while planning, selecting or designing the shelters, as well as disaster preparedness, management systems and training programs.

Scenario 3:

Long-term shelter for hazard or disaster that may also affect the shelter.

Possible hazards/disasters are:

  • Earthquake
  • Major landslide
  • Major volcanic eruptions/lava flows

Possible Consequences:

In the absence of such a shelter, the community may be without a proper refuge for extended times. It must be emphasized that such shelters should be designed/evaluated to be functional for the hazards that effect the vulnerable buildings. However, this scenario has a low probability of occurring generally having a low probability of but could have major consequences. Temporary or semi-permanent shelters are constructed after such disasters which can later be dismantled or relocated.

Once the basic design scenarios are considered, the next important decision is whether the existing buildings or structures can be used/designated as shelters or, specifically designed and constructed shelters are needed, which could also be multipurpose.

Table 1 shows some of the pros and cons of using existing and new shelters, and their relevance to various scenarios and hazards.

  Designation of Existing Buildings Construction of New Buildings
Advantages
  • Lower cost
  • No new land needed
  • Multipurpose
  • Easier management during disaster
     
  • Can be designed for specific hazard type and level
  • Can be located for ideal usage
  • Can be designed for multi usage
     
Disadvantages
  • May not be suitable for required needs
  • May need retrofit
  • High cost
  • New land required
Suitable for Scenarios
  • Scenario 1: High
  • Scenario 2: Medium to High
  • Scenario 3: Low
  • Scenario 1: Low
  • Scenario 2: Medium to High
  • Scenario 3: High
Suitable for Hazards
 
Fire- High
Flood - Medium
Hurricane - High
Landslide - Low
Earthquake - Low
Volcano - Low
 
Fire - High
Floods - High
Hurricane - High
Landslide - High
Earthquake - Low
Volcano - Medium
 

Table 1: Designation of existing buildings vs construction of new shelters

Planning Considerations

Several considerations need to be taken into account while planning and selecting the shelters for various scenarios. Table 2 shows several such considerations including those for location, management services, facilities, and security operations.

Planning Considerations Scenario 1 Scenario 2 Scenario 3
Building Considerations (Such as, Location, Capacity etc.)
  • Easy Access
  • Relativity resilient to main hazards
  • Can be multi use and handle multiple hazards
  • Strong resilience to hazards
  • Preferably designed or build not to affect neighboring areas
  • May be designed for specific hazards
  • Need substantial services and systems
Shelter user Registration and Information
  • Process used to collect information ((e.g. sign in sheet, registration form, and electronic process)
  • Number of users coming into the facility
  • Communicate Shelter Policies
  • Support mechanism for Individual with disabilities
  • Indicate primary purpose of shelter
  •  Signage (Identify and direct users)
  • Process used to collect information ((e.g. sign in sheet, registration form, and electronic process)
  • Communicate Shelter Policies
  • Support mechanism for Individual with disabilities
  • Signage (Identify and direct users)
  • Process used to collect information ((e.g. sign in sheet, registration form, and electronic process)
  • Communicate Shelter Policies
  • Support mechanism for Individual with disabilities
  • Signage (Identify and direct users)
Facility Management
  • Shelter Design Considerations
  • Management of facility operations
  • Public Health Issues Considerations
  • Plan to preserve shelter user's privacy
  • Finance and administration
  • Plan to initiate, operate, and close shelter operations
  • Liaison with the local fire department
  • Pass information to shift change
  • Shelter Design Considerations
  • Management of facility operations
  • Public Health Issues Considerations
  • Plan to preserve shelter user's privacy
  • Finance and administration
  • Plan to initiate, operate, and close shelter operations
  • Plan for service outages
  • Evacuation and Emergency plan to evacuate or relocate shelter's users
  • Liaison with the local fire department
  • Pass information to shift change
    Signage (Identify and direct users to public areas)
     
  • Shelter Design Considerations
  • Management of facility operations
  • Identify the need for additional equipment and services due to unusual and high usage
  • Plan for allocating space for non-dormitory areas and needs
    plan considerations for locating adjoining activities and spaces
  • Public Health Issues Considerations
  • Plan to preserve shelter user's privacy
  • Finance and administration
  • Plan to initiate, operate, and close shelter operations
  • Additional system evaluations are necessary when operating 24x7
  • Plan for service outages
  • Evacuation and Emergency plan to evacuate or relocate shelter's users
  • Liaison with the local fire department
  • Pass information to shift change
    Warning signals
Security, Building Access Control and Information Management
  • Entry, screening and search
  • Key and Lock control
  • Areas need to be secured
  • Individuals with disabilities
  • Information Management
  • Spokesperson for the shelter
  • Responsibility for the security and access procedures
  • Entry, screening and search
  • Key and Lock control
  • Areas need to be secured
  • Individuals with disabilities
  • Information Management
  • Spokesperson for the shelters
  • Responsibility for the security and access procedures
  • Entry, screening and search
  • Key and Lock control
  • Areas need to be secured
  • Individuals with disabilities
  • Initial and ongoing access needs will be required for residents, nonresidents seeking services, visitors of residents and service providers
  • Information Management
  • Spokesperson for the shelters
Food Service
  • Safe food handling and sanitation
  • Garbage and food waste disposal
     
  • Safe food handling and sanitation
  • Food preparation and donated food
  • Supply chain and procurement
  • Garbage and food waste disposal
  • Coordination and provision of food service
  • Estimated population to be served
  • Serving schedule 
  • Capabilities for refrigeration and dry food storage
  • Safe food handling and sanitation
  • Food preparation and donated food
  • System(s) are needed to track the number of meals and snacks served
  • Supply chain and procurement
  • Garbage and food waste disposal
Public Health, Medical & Mental Health Services



 
  • Orientation and Training
  • Triage and first aid
  • Local Hospital Coordination
     
  • Orientation and Training
  • Public Health
  • Triage and first aid
  • Local Hospital Coordination
  • Medical Transport
  • Orientation and Training
  • Public Health
  • Triage and first aid
  • Medical Clinic and pharmacy
  • Isolation Area
  • Local Hospital Coordination
  • Medical Transport
  • Durable and disposable medical equipment and supplies
  • Mental Health
Children' areas

 
  • Safety
  • Needs to be child friendly design
  • Children's feeding needs
  • Safety
  • Needs to be child friendly design
  • Children's feeding needs
  • Temporary respite care
  • Safety
  • Needs to be child friendly design
    Children's feeding needs
Other Considerations
 
   
  • Donations and Volunteer
  • Responsibility for coordinating laundry services
  • Postal services
  • Building maintenance and Engineering
  • Janitorial Services
  • Information Technology and Communication Systems
  • Storage & space management

 

Table 2: Planning Considerations

The information need for the shelter will depend on the whether the special shelter/facility is to be designed or an existing building is to be converted to or designated as a shelter. The most common mechanism currently being adopted in most of the East Caribbean states is to designate existing public buildings, such as schools and churches as emergency shelters which are typically used for scenario 1 and scenario 2 cases. The procedure to select such shelters is described in use case 5.2 Shelter planning in use case book.

The information needed for the evaluation and selection of an existing shelter is listed in the Emergency Shelter Facility Survey and Assessment forms included in the annex. This simple form can be adapted for a particular state or region.

The main categories of information are summarized below:

  • Proposed shelter data
  • Building occupancy and general characteristics
  • Structural characteristics of buildings
  • Surroundings
  • Past Damages
  • Building status for emergency shelter use

References

MEGA-SHELTER PLANNING GUIDE. A Resource and Best Practices Reference by IAVM and the American Red Cross. October 1, 2010, www.iavm.org

Design and Construction Guidance for Community Shelters, FEMA 361, July 2000

Annex

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 Last update: 19-07-2016