Residents from Capoons Bay through to Carrot Bay are this week benefitting from the week-long Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training, facilitated by the BVI Red Cross and the Department of Disaster Management (DDM).
Eighteen persons turned up Monday night at the Seventh Day Adventist Youth Center in Carrot Bay to participate in the community based emergency response training which has been offered in several other communities throughout the Territory.
Disaster Risk Reduction Officer with the BVI Red Cross, Mr. Jason Lyons noted that with one quarter left, the 2014 target for CERT trainings has already been met. “The goal of the BVI Red Cross was to complete four offerings of CERT this year in Purcell Estate, Huntums Ghut, East End and Capoons Bay but with the partnership arrangement in place with the DDM, we have already exceeded that number. An additional group will also be trained in Sea Cow’s Bay as part of the SMART School Project being piloted by the DDM,” Mr. Lyons stated.
Elaborating on the relevance of CERT, DDM Training Officer, Ms. Carishma Hicks noted that the CERT training offers an opportunity for community persons to become fully engaged, as volunteers, in emergency response activities that are necessary during the initial phases of any emergency situation.
“It also allows for capacity building among residents and adds strength to the national level response mechanism,” she said, adding, “The success of the CERT programme can be readily attributed to the ongoing collaboration between the DDM and the BVI Red Cross and the growing interest from residents of the BVI. We expect this programme to continue into next year where the focus will be on the other communities.”
Ms. Hicks noted that the CERT training was first started in the United States and has now been adopted throughout the Caribbean by national disaster management offices. “In the BVI, we have taken the programme a step further, adapting it for teenagers and for schools and we expect to see a gradual introduction of the course into business sector as interest continues to grow on that front,” she said.
The DDM began the CERT programme more than 10 years ago but since 2013, a valiant attempt has been made to offer the courses to communities on the sister islands initially and now on the mainland, Tortola with a view to developing a well-structured and effective community based disaster risk reduction programme.
To date, more than 160 persons have been trained and certified in Anegada, Jost van Dyke, Virgin Gorda, Huntums Ghut, Purcell Estate and East End and the first Teen CERT was offered last year with 14 teenagers from high schools throughout the Territory becoming certified as Teen CERT.
The DDM continues to engage the teams on the sister islands to ensure that refresher type activities are provided and to motivate members CERT teams formed on those islands. “We want to provide opportunities for active participation of the members of the CERT teams. We have a number of enthusiastic persons who want to continue their testing and developing their skills and it is important that we find creative ways of maintaining the momentum that has started and ensuring that we are able to sustain the level of interest we are currently seeing among the population,” Ms. Hicks stated.
Members trained in CERT have been registered in the National Volunteer Register managed and operated by the DDM. This database allows for all members to receive notification of new training opportunities; allows for quick deployment during emergencies; maintains a register of persons who have received the training and monitor and evaluate progress over time.