Gaithersburg City and Montgomery County officials worked quickly to set up one of three overnight shelters in the county at the Activity Center at Bohrer Park.
The shelter officially opened to the public at noon but officials were in the process of setting up check-in stations and cots at 2:30 p.m. while volunteers from the Red Cross worked to unload food and other essentials for people who might be displaced by Hurricane Sandy.
Mario Wawrzusin — a program administrator for the county's Department of Health and Human Services — was overseeing the set up and said the county wants to provide a safe place for anyone in the community.
Wawrzusin would not speculate how many people would require the services of the shelter, but did use his experience working the county's Derecho shelter at Richard Montgomery High School as a reference point.
"Our max overnight [capacity] was a little over 100 at Richard Montgomery," Wawrzusin said. "More than a couple hundred came during the day to charge technology and get out of the heat."
City of Gaithersburg Emergency Management Coordinator Skip Lanham visited the shelter after spending the morning working at the County's emergency operations center. It's the first time the city has used the Activity Center at Bohrer Park as a shelter, Lanham said, and he "wanted to make sure things were running smoothly."
"It's going well," Lanham said. "The county has an excellent plan on this. They've drawn on wide resources. The Red Cross — we couldn't do it without them and the location here is good for central and western Montgomery County."
While officials hope the shelter provides a place for those who lose power, it's possible that the activity center could lose its power as well, Lanham said.
The center's generator was designed to back up only the refrigeration and administrative systems, and supplemental emergency lighting would be activated should the center go dark.
"Overnight shelter can continue with a loss of power," Lanham said.
Only the gymnasium would be pitch black, but "portable lighting can be brought in if we need to expand to the gym," Lanham said.
According to the city of Gaithersburg website, the Red Cross makes the following recommendations for people heading to one of the county's three shelters:
The Red Cross encourages those who plan to stay in a Red Cross evacuation shelter to bring the following items for each member of their family:
- prescription and emergency medication
- medical equipment such as a wheelchair/walker, oxygen, etc.
- extra clothing
- blankets and sleeping bags
- hygiene supplies
- flashlight with extra batteries
- small board games
- books for entertainment
- specialty snacks and juices for those with dietary restrictions
- basic snacks
- baby food and formula
- beach chair or camp chair
- insurance papers
- other comfort items
Additionally, special items for children and infants, such as diapers, formulas and toys, should be brought, along with other items for family members who are elderly or disabled.
You may not bring illegal drugs, alcoholic beverages, or weapons into the shelter.
Please remember, this is an evacuation shelter and while food and drinks will be provided, other amenities may not be.
Other shelters in Montgomery County are located at White Oak Community Recreation Center — open for people and pets — at 1700 April Lane in Silver Spring and Mid-County Community Recreation Center — people only — at 2004 Queensguard Road in Silver Spring.