Mathews team prepared in case of emergency

Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Aug 14, 2019 - 02:33 PM

Photo: Mathews County Social Services Director Tiffany Gordon said the county has space for 196 people at its emergency shelter at the YMCA, with some of that space designated for staff and their families. Since there are only 165 cots available, shown here stored in the Human Services building, people are encouraged to take sleeping bags or other bedding to the shelter if they have to evacuate their homes. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

Mathews County Social Services Director Tiffany Gordon said the county has space for 196 people at its emergency shelter at the YMCA, with some of that space designated for staff and their families. Since there are only 165 cots available, shown here stored in the Human Services building, people are encouraged to take sleeping bags or other bedding to the shelter if they have to evacuate their homes. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

Whenever a hurricane or other natural disaster threatens Mathews, the county’s emergency services team goes into gear, preparing to assist residents in a variety of ways, from helping with evacuations before the disaster to assisting with clean-up afterward.

Among the team’s responsibilities is operating an emergency shelter at the Mathews Family YMCA, and Mathews County Social Services director Tiffany Gordon is the team member who, along with her staff, handles that.

Gordon said that the county’s emergency operations director Edwina Casey and County Administrator Mindy Conner together decide whether a situation warrants opening a shelter, and if so, they call an Emergency Operations Center meeting of the whole team, which includes Emergency Services Director Willie Love, Mathews County Sheriff Mark Barrick, and representatives from the fire department and rescue squad.

Once the decision has been made, said Gordon, she and her 15-member staff begin the process of setting up the shelter, which will be staffed by five Social Services employees at a time, working in 12-hour shifts, a sheriff’s deputy for security, and a member of the Mathews County Health Department’s Medical Reserve Corps. 

With the help of personnel from U.S. Coast Guard Station Milford Haven, emergency supplies are moved from storage in the Human Services building to the YMCA. The county has 165 cots and equivalent numbers of emergency bedding and hygiene kits for the shelter, said Gordon, but she warned that all of the items are very basic. Each bedding kit consists of a sheet, a small rolled-up pillow, and a thin blanket, while each toiletry kit has small containers of shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, shaving gel, toothpaste and toothbrush, razor, comb, a small bar of soap and washcloth. People should really be prepared to bring their own sleeping bags or other bedding, towels and toiletries, if possible, said Gordon. They also need to bring their own medications, non-electronic toys and games to entertain their children, and external battery packs for their electronics.

In addition, because the YMCA doesn’t have storage space for food and has only a small warming kitchen, people should bring non-perishable food for themselves and their pets, as well.