November 11, 20141750Views

Twenty police and fire officers in the
British Virgin Islands are now better able to undertake search and rescue
operations following their participation in a Map Reading and Land Navigation

A joint initiative of the Department
of Disaster Management (DDM), Town and Country Planning, Department of Lands
and Survey and the BVI Red Cross, the course was the first in a series designed
to enhance national search and rescue capabilities for both land and sea-based
response operations.

The two-day course provided the emergency
response personnel with both theoretical knowledge and practical experience.
DDM’s Technical Planning Officer, Mr. Christopher Williams, who served as one
of the co-facilitators, explained the elements involved.

“The training included 16 hours of
course work and offered both theoretical and practical instructions involving
the use of topographic maps and navigation aids such as Global Positioning
System (GPS) instruments, grid coordinates, compass reading and search
techniques,” he said, adding, “The training also incorporated the use of
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) which is widely used by Government
agencies in the production of maps and decision making for planning and
emergency response purposes.”

Elaborating on the particular
attention paid to practical exercises, DDM’s Training Officer, Ms. Carishma
Hicks said, “The course was carefully designed to ensure that practical
applications are included and the participating officers were taken to
locations to allow them to practice progressively moving through challenging
terrain where navigation strategies are required.”

Ms. Hicks also referenced additional
training to further improve search and rescue capability in the BVI.

“We intend to supplement this training
with a night navigation session where there is a reliance on tools like timing,
pacing and bearings as well as training for sea-based navigation operations,”
she said.

Explaining the linkages of this
training to the work of emergency response agencies, Chairman of the National
GIS Committee, Mr. Troy Dawson said, “Map reading and land navigation in the
context of emergency services are necessary skills that will enable emergency
responders to quickly find their way around the island by identifying specific
features on the ground and on local maps and assist in the swift and accurate
transmission of information on the location of people or objects.”

The newly trained officers will form
part of the National Search and Rescue Team and over time, they will receive
the necessary training to allow them to be fully certified by the International
Search and Rescue Advisory Group which establishes minimum international
standards for Urban Search and Rescue teams based on established guidelines endorsed
by the United National General Assembly Resolution 57/150 of 2002.

Government departments or agencies
interested in this training can contact the DDM’s Training Officer to express
their interest.  Additional courses are
being planned for 2015.