Structure Analysis and Results
Of the 21 structures that DIRT surveyed, six were schools, four were churches, and nine were miscellaneous government buildings or other critical structures. The oldest structure we surveyed (a church in Point L’Est) was 78 years old and made of concrete. The newest (the current EOC in Madame Bernard) was no more than six months old and made of sheet metal and glass. The walls on the majority of the structures were made of concrete, while the roofs were varied (either concrete or tin/sheet metal) depending on the type of structure. There was high variability in window type – eight structures had glass windows, four had concrete grating or metal bars over window openings, and seven had no windows at all. There was also high variability in the size of the structures. The average length was 49 feet, the average width was 43 feet, and the average height was nine feet.
Regarding these findings, there are many reasons that these structures are unsuitable for use as shelters during a disaster. The structures lacked most if not all of the following: proper roof clips, sealed walls to roof, sealed windows, ventilation, sustainable water system (rainwater catchment system or a well nearby), waste disposal system, reinforced cement walls, and wall reinforcements that extend at least three feet into the ground.
The force of wind during a disaster would be destructive to these structures. Since the majority of roofs either did not have proper roof clips or were not connected to the walls at all, the force of the wind would easily remove the roofs from the structures. Once this happens, the walls are no longer stabilized by the downward force of the roof, and are likely to collapse. Additionally, the location of the structures relative to the beach is important regarding storm surge. Many of the buildings are located in low lying areas that are subject to flooding, which is another issue to take into account when choosing a shelter. After considering the effects that both wind and surge could have on the structures, there is not one that we would recommend utilizing as a shelter through any storm stronger than a tropical storm. Instead, we would advise that if during a storm a structure’s roof comes off or becomes damaged, that residents evacuate immediately before the structure collapses to avoid harm.
Data collected on structures is available in Appendix B.