Martha’s Vineyard, MA is an a scenic island lying just 7 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It’s 6 island towns make up a wonderfully quaint vacation destination for thousands of tourists during almost any season of the year. The island is a perfect spot for a getaway weekend or a prolonged stay. The island is reachable via the Massachusetts Steamship Authority which has scheduled ferry runs to two different port towns on the island. Martha’s Vineyard is really an island playground and you don’t really need to be rich or famous to enjoy it. It’s hard to think of such a beautiful spot coming under the frontal assault of a Class 3 hurricane but for those in charge of the safety of the island , thinking about such disasters is really their business.
The Obvious Answer. When safety authorities on Martha’s Vineyard, MA begin to consider how to provide for the deliverance of residents and visitors from Martha’s Vineyard if the island appeared to lie in the path of a hurricane, there really seems to be a very simple solution. Get everyone into their cars and put them on the ferry’s back to the mainland. Those who want to stay on the Vineyard would then do so at their own risk. This type of evacuation plan would seem to effectively cover everyone and still allow for people attached to their property to ride out the incoming storm if they so desired without unnecessarily risking the lives of Martha’s Vineyard police and safety officials. Problem solved.
The Numbers Don’t Lie. Experience and good math has brought safety officials on Martha’s Vineyard, MA to a very different conclusion. On July 14, 2006 the Cape Cod Times carried an article regarding hurricane preparation on the Vineyard.. In it Peter Martel, Emergency Management Director from Oak Bluffs explained very bluntly but apparently very accurately “Evacuation is not possible”. Martel went on to explain in some detail that often because of vacationers the island would need to evacuate some 100,000 people
If all of the available Steamship Authority’s ferries were pressed into service for a 24 hour period they would only be able to move a total of 3,000 cars off the island. The crush to be among the 3,000 could lead to panic and violence. Instead of attempting an impossible evacuation Martha’s Vineyard, MA has opted for a second plan.
The Use of Shelter. While nearby Nantucket Island with a smaller vacation population might attempt to evacuate all or at least some of its visitors and residents, Martha’s Vineyard has determined to concentrate their preparation activities on making the best shelter arrangements possible right there on the island. For visitors being on an island in the middle of a hurricane will be anxiety producing, but when they recognize that safety is as real as the island’s schools and the regional high school, it is hoped they will be content to ride out the storm with the locals. This is the plan that the six communities now are agreed upon.
Red Cross Goes Full Time. The second major piece of preparedness for Martha’s Vineyard was taken last year as reported in the February 2, 2006 issue of Martha’s Vineyard Times. The Martha’s Vineyard Chapter of the American Red Cross, based in part on an evaluation of some of the problems surrounding Katrina, determined to alter its status from a part time to a full time chapter.
The chapter believes that this expansion will better allow the chapter to work with local leaders to provide for the kind of advanced preparation that really determines how effectively Red Cross can make use of goods and services provided in the case that Martha’s Vineyard experiences a hurricane . The local Red Cross anticipates that in the case of a real catastrophe there would be literally tons of supplies flooding in to Martha’s Vineyard. The trouble the Red Cross often faces is with the process of distribution . Having a working relationship with the leadership of all six towns on the Vineyard in advance they believe will help to move things along and get help to people who need it in the event of a major hurricane or any other natural disaster.
Of course as with any other location, each individual needs to take account of their own personal needs and those of their family. Planning ahead is crucial as a warning for a major hit will not give anyone more than about 24 hours of lead time. Islanders need to know in advance what to do with pets and how to get to shelter. As in any emergency having water, non perishable food and flashlights on hand is a must.
Martha’s Vineyard is not a large target, but the possibility for a direct hit is always present. It’s just that kind of emergency for which town leaders and the American Red Cross are always preparing