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Public cyclone shelters are buildings that have been purpose built to provide a place of refuge for residents who live in storm surge evacuation zones. The shelters have very limited capacity so they should not be the first sheltering option and are only for those that have exhausted all other options.
On the Cassowary Coast we have two purpose-built cyclone shelters which are located in Tully and Innisfail.
The shelters are intended to be a short-term option of up to around 18 hours and have very basic amenities. Evacuees will only have about one square metre of seating space and all belongings (including food, water, medications and clothing) must be contained in a small bag which will fit under a seat.
There will be no cooking facilities available for use nor will any be allowed to be brought in. There will be no food available and for the safety of everyone within the shelter, no pets will be permitted.
The public cyclone shelters are not pleasant places to be as they are usually cramped, uncomfortable and most likely very noisy and hot. Conditions can be compared to sitting on a domestic airline flight where you have little room to move and limited ability to walk around.
Under the conditions of entry no alcohol, cigarettes or other prohibited items are permitted into the shelter and there is a strict code of conduct which must be complied with by all evacuees.
If everyone has the cyclone shelters as their first option, they will fill quickly and leave other residents with nowhere to go. For this reason, all residents must plan for what they will do if they need to evacuate their home. A public cyclone shelter should not be any of the primary shelter options.
Residents who need to evacuate will be much more comfortable sheltering with family or friends in their homes in a safer location or leaving the area completely. Residents will also be more comfortable sheltering in hotel or motel accommodation outside of the warning area.
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