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Generator Safety and Maintenance: Essential Tips for V.I. Residents

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Regular maintenance of a generator is essential to ensure reliability and safety. (Photo courtesy VITEMA)

With a busy hurricane season underway and frequent WAPA power outages, residents across the Virgin Islands are reminded of the importance of safely operating generators during electrical failures.

Generators are invaluable during power outages, but improper use can pose significant dangers, including the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Carbon monoxide, or CO, is known as the ‘invisible killer’ because it’s a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas,” according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). “More than 200 people in the United States die annually from accidental non-fire-related CO poisoning associated with consumer products, with nearly 100 of those deaths linked to portable generators,” the CPSC reports.

Portable generators operating on fuels like gasoline, propane, or diesel emit high levels of toxic CO fumes. The CPSC highlights that a single portable generator can produce the same amount of carbon monoxide as hundreds of cars.

To ensure safe generator use and avoid carbon monoxide exposure, the CPSC advises:

  • Never use portable generators inside homes or garages, even if doors and windows are open. Use generators outside only, at least 20 feet away from homes, with exhaust facing away.
  • Install battery-operated CO alarms or CO alarms with battery backup on every level of the home and outside sleeping areas. Interconnected CO alarms are best; when one sounds, they all sound.
  • Recognize symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, and confusion. If CO poisoning is suspected, get outside to fresh air immediately and call 911.

Generators powered by solar energy do not emit poisonous gases and are a viable option for residents to consider.

Operating a generator safely can help reduce risks of carbon monoxide poisoning, fires, or electrocution. (Photo courtesy FEMA)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) warns that using a generator can pose additional hazards, including electrocution and fire risks. FEMA provides these safety guidelines:

  • Always use heavy-duty extension cords to connect the generator to appliances.
  • Do not connect the generator directly to your home’s power supply, as it can increase voltage or cause a surge in outside power lines, potentially injuring utility workers and bypassing household circuit protection devices.
  • Hire a qualified electrician to install the appropriate equipment per local electrical codes, or request your utility company to install a proper power transfer switch.

Operating a generator in a dry area is crucial to avoid electrocution risks. FEMA also advises:

  • Keep your generator and fuel outside.
  • Store fuel in properly labeled, non-glass safety containers outside living areas.
  • Do not store fuel near fuel-burning appliances to prevent ignition from vapors.
  • Turn off and cool the generator before refueling to prevent ignition from spilled fuel or vapors.

Generator safety tips from the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (Photo courtesy NWS)

Generator Maintenance

Regular maintenance ensures a generator’s reliability and safety. Consumer Reports recommends testing the machine at least twice a year and emptying the fuel tank when not in use. Regularly replacing and cleaning generator components is also advised. Check the engine oil level and maintain it at the “full” mark on the dipstick. If issues arise, contact the manufacturer if under warranty or reach out to a repair shop.

Charlotte Wardell from Import Supply V.I., a generator sales and service business in St. Thomas, advises that all generators meet Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources qualifications. Oil changes should occur at least once a year or every 250 hours of use. During extended outages, keeping oil filters on hand is recommended.

Generators should only be used in dry areas, away from water or wet conditions, and never during a storm to reduce the risk of electrocution.

USVI Weather Information

With an active 2024 Atlantic hurricane season anticipated, increasing the risk of weather-related power failures, V.I. residents should stay updated with the latest forecasts. Weather information is available from the National Weather Service, the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency, and the Source Weather Page, which offers daily forecasts and disaster preparedness videos. Residents can also sign up for power outage alerts from the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority.

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USVI Community Pulse

Community Initiatives and Volunteer Opportunities in USVI

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Engaging in community initiatives and volunteering in the USVI is a rewarding way to give back and make a meaningful impact. Here are some notable opportunities for those interested in contributing to the community and environment of the USVI.

Community and Human Services

Lutheran Social Services of the Virgin Islands: This organization provides comprehensive support to various vulnerable populations, including abused and neglected children, low-income seniors, and adults with disabilities. They manage facilities like the Queen Louise Home and offer crisis intervention services, ensuring essential care and support for those in need​​.

Lighthouse Mission: Based in Christiansted, this faith-based organization serves the homeless by providing meals and personal care items. They also run after-school programs for local children, helping to foster a supportive environment for the youth in the community.

Animal Welfare

St. Croix Animal Welfare Center: Since 1973, this nonprofit has been dedicated to the care of orphaned, abused, and neglected animals. They focus on adoption, spay/neuter programs, and humane education outreach. Volunteering here involves caring for animals and helping with adoption events​.

Healing Paws: This organization works closely with the St. Croix Animal Welfare Center and aims to establish a no-kill animal sanctuary. They also run the “Paws from Paradise” program, which helps transport animals to loving homes outside the island​.

R.E.A.L. Cruzan Cats: Focused on improving the lives of stray cats on St. Croix, this organization helps with spaying/neutering, vaccinations, and finding permanent homes for these animals​.

Cruzan Cowgirls Horse Rescue: The only horse rescue on St. Croix, they provide sanctuary and rehabilitation for retired racehorses and other neglected or abused horses. Volunteers assist with daily care and rehabilitation efforts.

Environmental Conservation

St. Croix Environmental Association (SEA): Committed to protecting St. Croix’s natural beauty, SEA offers environmental education programs and organizes events like beach clean-ups. They promote environmental stewardship among both residents and visitors​.

The Nature Conservancy: This organization works on preserving the natural habitats of St. Croix, including monitoring sea turtle nests and restoring coral reefs. Volunteers can participate in conservation projects and educational programs​​.

Clean Sweep Frederiksted: This community-driven initiative focuses on the beautification and economic development of Frederiksted through organized clean-ups and public art projects​.

National and Territorial Parks Support

Friends of Virgin Islands National Park: This nonprofit supports the Virgin Islands National Park through various initiatives, including trail maintenance, plant propagation, and educational programs. They welcome volunteers to assist in preserving the park’s natural and cultural resources​.

Friends of St. Croix East End Marine Park (STXEEMP): This group supports the marine park’s mission by promoting responsible recreation and enhancing community outreach. Volunteers can help with education programs and compliance efforts within the park​​.

How to Get Involved

Volunteering in the USVI offers numerous ways to contribute, from hands-on animal care and environmental conservation to supporting social services and educational programs. Many organizations welcome both local and visiting volunteers, making it easy to get involved and make a difference.

Whether you’re passionate about human services, animal welfare, or environmental conservation, the USVI provides diverse opportunities to give back to the community. By dedicating your time and skills, you can help foster a vibrant and supportive community while enjoying the natural beauty of the islands.

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USVI Community Pulse

BLACKFULLNESS: Emancipation 2024 Art Exhibition Opens at Fort Frederik Museum

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The highly anticipated third annual Emancipation Art Exhibition is scheduled to open this Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Fort Frederik Museum. This year’s theme, BLACKFULLNESS, was announced by Commissioner Jean-Pierre L. Oriol of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.

Curated by Monica Marin, Chief Curator of the Division of Libraries, Archives, and Museums, the exhibition invites artists from the Virgin Islands, the African-Caribbean Diaspora, and those connected to the region to showcase their work.

Featured artists include Waldermar Brodhurst, Jeffrey Rezende, Victoria Rivera, Elisa Mackay, Danica Davis, Niarus Walker, Adrian Edwards, Ray Llanos, La Vaughn Belle, Quiana Adams, Elwin Joseph, Stuart Rames, Mike Walsh, Danielle Kearns, Rob Gigsun, Therese Trudeau, Eric Paxton, A’we Study Group featuring Sayeeda Carter, Kemit Amon-Lewis, Oceana James, and Nina Mercer, among others.

The term BLACKFULLNESS, coined by the late Black feminist Audre Lorde, describes the profound sense of belonging and purpose she felt within the majority Black community of St. Croix. In her interview titled Above the Wind, Lorde reflected on how St. Croix helped her heal and become more active as an artist and human-rights activist. Similarly, many creatives from the United States have been inspired by the vibrant energy of the Virgin Islands community, which has served as a beacon of light and inspiration.

“This year’s exhibition spotlights the spirit of resistance that is at the core of Virgin Islanders’ identity and that is etched into everything that makes Virgin Islands’ cultural production so powerful,” stated Marin. “It calls attention to how Black protest, art, and activism in our region have influenced international Black brilliance and liberation.”

Admission to the exhibition is $10 per person, with free entry for students aged 17 and under. Additionally, there will be a free viewing on Saturday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The exhibition will run through October, and visitors can view it during the Fort Frederik Museum’s regular hours: Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more information, please contact Monica Marin at [email protected] or call 340-772-2021.

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USVI Community Pulse

Emancipation in the USVI: Celebrating Freedom and Resilience

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Today, the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) commemorate Emancipation Day, a significant public holiday marking the abolition of slavery in the Danish West Indies on July 3, 1848. This day stands as a testament to the strength and determination of the enslaved Africans who fought for and won their freedom 176 years ago.

Historical Background

The journey to emancipation in the USVI began under Danish rule in the 17th century, with the trans-Atlantic slave trade starting around 1673. Enslaved Africans were primarily forced to labor on sugarcane plantations under harsh and inhumane conditions. This oppressive environment led to several revolts, including a notable six-month rebellion on Saint John in 1733.

The pivotal moment came on July 3, 1848, when over 8,000 enslaved people, led by Moses Gottlieb (also known as General Buddhoe), initiated a non-violent uprising on Saint Croix. Overwhelmed by the scale of the revolt, Danish Governor Peter von Scholten declared the immediate emancipation of all slaves in the Danish West Indies, preempting an earlier plan to gradually abolish slavery by 1859​.

Celebrations and Events

Emancipation Day is celebrated with a variety of events that reflect the rich cultural heritage and enduring spirit of the Virgin Islanders. This year’s festivities include:

  • Freedom Walk: A symbolic journey from Fort Christian to Fort Frederik, held at dawn, honors the path to freedom taken by the ancestors.
  • Emancipation Day Parade: Starting at the Frederiksted Post Office, the parade showcases vibrant cultural displays and community participation.
  • Official Ceremony: Held at Buddhoe Park, this ceremony includes speeches, performances, and a reflection on the historical significance of the day.
  • Luncheon and Festivals: “Freedom, Feast & Folklore” luncheon on the Frederiksted Pier, followed by an evening of music and fireworks at the “Unshackled Music Festival” in Freedom City​.

Reflecting on the Past, Embracing the Future

Emancipation Day is not just a day of celebration but also a time for reflection on the struggles and sacrifices made by those who fought for freedom. The commemoration underscores the importance of remembering history and continuing the journey towards equality and justice. As Carol Burke, chair of the Emancipation Committee, emphasized, this day serves as a “springboard to a brighter, better-defined future” for all Virgin Islanders​​.

By honoring this day, the USVI acknowledges the resilience and bravery of its ancestors while inspiring current and future generations to uphold the values of freedom and equality. Emancipation Day in the USVI is a powerful reminder of the triumph of the human spirit against oppression and the ongoing pursuit of justice and dignity for all.

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