June 17, 20131370Views

Monday, June 17Fifteen persons from the Virgin Gorda
community are now certified Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members.

The course was delivered last week by facilitators from the BVI Red
Cross, the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, the Virgin Islands Fire and
Rescue Service and the Department of Disaster Management.  The CERT programme is an all-risk, all-hazard
training designed to help persons protect themselves, their family, neighbors
and neighborhood in an emergency situation or in response to a hazard impact.  It focusses on doing the greatest good for
the greatest number of persons.

The training was held from June 10 to 14 during the evenings from 6:00
p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and culminated with Basic Fire Aid and practical exercises on
June 15.  

In describing the purpose of the training Deputy Director of DDM,
Evangeline Inniss said, “CERT is a positive and realistic community approach
which allows residents to serve as first responders in emergency and disaster
situations.  It prepares volunteers to
handle circumstances until the highly skilled emergency responders arrive.”

  She added, “One main goal of the
CERT programme is to ensure that volunteers who are willing to assist in
response activities can do so effectively and efficiently without placing themselves
in unnecessary danger.”

Ms. Inniss spoke further about the content of the course.  She said, “In the CERT training, participants
learned how to safely extinguish small fires, provide basic medical aid, search
for and rescue victims safely, organise themselves to be effective volunteers,
and collect disaster intelligence to support first responder efforts.”

The DDM has been managing a volunteer programme since 1995 with the
introduction of the Disaster Auxiliary Corps. 
The Corps has been recognised regionally and replicated throughout the
Caribbean with the most recent group being established in Guyana.  In 2012, the Corps transitioned into a
National Volunteer Registry that is accessible on the DDM website to anyone
between the age of 18 and 55 who are willing to participate in a wide variety
of areas. 

Provisions for the establishment of a structured volunteer programme are
included in the 2011 Disaster Management Bill that is before the House of
Assembly for its second reading.  The new
bill provides for training, identification, screening and protection of
volunteers registered and certified by the DDM.

The CERT initiative began as far back as 1985
in the USA and was developed by the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) who
studied the
earthquake preparedness plans in
place in Japan where extensive steps had been taken to train entire
neighborhoods in alleviating the potential devastation that would follow a
major earthquake. A similar approach was identified during the Mexico City
earthquake in 1985 where large groups of volunteers organised themselves and
performed light search and rescue operations. Volunteers responding to this
disaster event were credited with more than 800 successful rescues;
unfortunately, more than 100 of these untrained volunteers died during the
15-day rescue operation.

Although the CERT initiative was introduced in
the BVI in the late 1990s funding is only now being made available to support
its full delivery throughout the Territory. 
A team exists on Anegada and was trained in 2012.  In two weeks similar training will be offered
on Jost van Dyke and plans are in place to form teams on Tortola.

The CERT initiative, being
administered by the DDM, is funded by the African, Caribbean Pacific European
Union (ACP EU) Natural Disaster Facility Disaster Risks Management Sub-Regional
Programme managed through the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency
(CDEMA).  The programme comes to an end
on  June 30 but will be continued by the
DDM through the use of local resources. 
Persons wishing to learn more about the VI CERT programme can contact
Evangeline Inniss, Deputy Director at the DDM at 468-4200 or via email
[email protected]
Persons can also register as volunteers through the DDM’s website at