BVI fire and police officers receive Urban Search & Rescue Training

Tortola, British Virgin Islands, 11 September, 2013 (DDM) - Six officers from the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force and the BVI Fire and Rescue Services are now better equipped to conduct urban search and rescue.

Fire Officers Gregory Alleyne and Alston Richardson; Sub Officer Elvin Forbes; Police Constable Troy St. Helen; and Detective Constables Michael Isles and Quacey Cooper were among 29 persons from various disciplines participating in the week-long course in Antigua and Barbuda.

The just concluded Urban Search and Rescue Light Level Course (USAR LL) was coordinated by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), which envisions having six internationally certified USAR LL technicians in each CDEMA member state.

In a press release, CDEMA described the training as physically and mentally challenging because it entailed a mix of “classroom and intense periods of practical exercises”. The CDEMA press release also noted that “participants were evaluated on what was learned through nine paper-based tests combined with practical exercises. Participants who are successful at the examinations are certified at the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) – Americas’ standard.”

According to the CDEMA release, Chief Instructor Mr. Abdias Samuel was “satisfied with the standards achieved on this basic course and challenged the technicians to continue to develop their skill.”BVI and other participants jubilant at the conclusion of the final exercise which marked the culmination of the week-long intensive course which focused on collapsed structure rescue.

Mr. Abdias and his team of five instructors have also identified potential instructors, whom they have recommended for advance training. Three of the local participants are among the 12 recommended for advance training.

Chief Fire Officer Mr. Zebalon McClean is high in praise for the officers who completed the training in collapsed structure rescue and underscored the importance of building local competency. “We cannot take for granted that what has been happening regularly around the world will not happen here. It is always good to have internal resources that can be easily accessed if a situation ever arises where such skills are needed. Training not only enhances the skills of officers but it allows them to develop the required competencies to progress through the ranks of the BVIFRS.”

Superintendant of Police, Mr. St. Clair Amory also offered words of commendation for the local participants and is particularly pleased with the performance of the police officers. “Training will always be beneficial to the police because we are normally the first responders. Even if police officers are going into an emergency situation with fire as the lead, we should be able to offer valuable assistance with regard to preserving life and this is exactly what this course prepared them to do. I am very excited about the performance of the officers because it shows they were serious about what they went to do and were able to demonstrate that to the instructors.”

The USAR LL Training Programme is a collaborative effort between CDEMA and the United States Aid for International Development/Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA). The programme was piloted in Panama in December 2007, with subsequent training sessions in Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Lucia, the Bahamas and most recently, Antigua and Barbuda. To date, more than 170 persons from 17 CDEMA states have been trained including 11 certified instructors, some of whom were among the instructors in Antigua and Barbuda.

The DDM worked with CDEMA to facilitate BVI participation in the training which was made possible with support from CDEMA’s Comprehensive Disaster Management Harmonization Implementation Programme (CDM HIP) through the Canadian International Development Agency, United Kingdom AID and Australian AID funding; and the Enhancing Resilience to Reduce Vulnerability in the Caribbean Region (ERC) Project through funding from Italian International Centre on Environmental Monitoring (CIMA).