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Earth Today | Westmoreland residents trained as disaster responders

Published:Thursday | July 25, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Participants in the Initial Damage Assessment and Shelter Management course at the Wesleyan Methodist Church Hall in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland. The group was exposed to theory and practical activities to prepare them as first responders in the event of a disaster.
Participants in the Initial Damage Assessment and Shelter Management course are attentive during training at the Wesleyan Methodist Church Hall in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland.

Forty-four Westmoreland residents are better able to help their communities in the aftermath of a disaster, thanks to training organised by the municipal corporation.

The training, titled ‘Initial Damage Assessment and Shelter Management’, focused on equipping community persons with first-responder skills required in the event of a disaster.

It was held under the project called ‘Climate Change Adaptation and Risk Reduction Technology and Strategies to Improve Community Resilience (CARTS)’ that is financed by the Community Disaster Risk Reduction Fund, a multi-donor trust fund with grant resources from Global Affairs Canada and the European Union. The fund is managed by the Caribbean Development Bank.

The three-day training, mainly conducted by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), targeted 30 people, but met with so much interest that eventually 44 were accommodated. It forms a part of the 2019 first responder training course series being delivered in Savanna-la-Mar between June and September.

“Savanna-la-Mar being located on the coast makes it more vulnerable to certain climate impacts, such as storm surge, flooding, sea level rise and so on. Therefore, it is very important that we ensure the residents can respond quickly and effectively in the event of a disaster,” noted project manager Shadae Allen.

It is expected that roughly 34,783 residents of the Westmoreland town, consisting of 17,443 females and 17,340 males, will be impacted by the project.


Meanwhile, participants were trained in diverse topics, including the concept of risk management being more than responding to disasters; the impact of hazards on buildings and infrastructure; as well as the importance of pre-hazard assessments towards effective planning. Participants were also taken through practical steps for conducting an initial damage assessment. On the shelter management side, the emphasis was on the role and responsibilities of the shelter manager as a problem-solver in times of disaster.

Participants had high praise for the training session.

“It was really a good training programme. We got lots of information to be better able to carry out our role as public health responders, pre- and post-disaster. We were also given further training to prepare us to be shelter managers if needed, and we can also complete initial damage assessments if required,” said Anneka Tomlinson of the Westmoreland Health Department.

Andrae Bailey, a representative of a community-based organisation in Savanna-la-Mar, agreed.

“The information was useful and the delivery method appropriate. I especially loved the visual aids in the initial damage-assessment training as it gave a practical visual of what to look for when completing an initial damage assessment. We also did participatory activities in groups to get hands-on experience with various issues,” he said.

“The information was relatable and the initial damage assessments aspect can be transferred even outside of a disaster scenario, as it is also applicable to everyday life,” Bailey added.

The Westmoreland Municipal Corporation and ODPEM are to maintain contact with the participants, as well as update the parish list of persons on standby to serve as first responders.