First Responders To Test Search And Rescue Skills In Exercise

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014 – 1:06pm

First responders in the Virgin Islands will test their search and rescue (SAR) skills on Thursday with support from visiting Royal Navy officers aboard the ship HMS Protector.

The simulation exercise is being organised by the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) and will have participation from the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, Virgin Islands Fire and Rescue Service, BVI Airports Authority and the BVI Red Cross.

DDM’s Training Officer, Ms. Carishma Hicks who is spearheading the exercise said the intention is to allow officers, who were recently trained, an opportunity to practice their skills in executing response measures geared towards a maritime search and rescue operation in the BVI waters.

“Several police and fire officers were trained in this particular area last year, using local expertise and through a Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency supported initiative, which took place in Antigua and Barbuda. Thursday’s exercise will present the first such opportunity to test their competence,” Ms. Hicks stated.

“Capacity building in disaster management is not restricted to theoretical knowledge. To determine its effectiveness and relevance, it must be continuously tested, allowing us to address whatever gaps exist now, rather than wait for an actual event to find out we have shortcomings in a particular area,” she added.

DDM Director, Ms. Sharleen DaBreo said Thursday’s exercise would complement a recent consultancy which sought to determine search and rescue capacity levels in the BVI.

“While significant maritime search and rescue capacity exists in the BVI, it is centralised. In addition, we must significantly improve the urban search and rescue skills and techniques of our responders to meet United Nations international standards,” Ms. DaBreo explained.

She further stated, “Given the findings of the consultant, it is critical that we spread this capacity across key first responder agencies including the RVIPF and the domestic and airport fire and rescue services and ensure that formal arrangements are established with non-governmental and voluntary organisations that can support these efforts.”

The local first responders will benefit from support provided by the crew from aboard the HMS Protector, which is currently anchored in BVI waters. “The ship’s crew have been engaged in their own series of exercises since anchoring in the BVI, testing their ability to respond to any emergency while in the Caribbean.

The Commanding Officer and three crew members from HMS Protector have also had discussions with the DDM on ways the ship can bring support to the Territory in the event of an emergency.

There is also a specialist humanitarian aid and disaster relief team aboard HMS Protector and the ship holds a humanitarian pack filled with equipment that can be used in emergency response operations.

His Excellency Governor Boyd McCleary will witness the simulation exercise from aboard the ship. In his capacity as Chairman of the National Disaster Management Council, the Governor has responsibility for disaster preparedness and response.

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