Communities to manage disaster at grass roots

| 11/07/2011

(CNS): A new initiative spearheaded by Hazard Management Cayman Islands and the local Red Cross was launched last week to encourage local communities to take control of their own emergency needs by forming community based rescue teams. Government officials said Friday that the goal was to mobilize as many people as possible in the event of an emergency and use local knowledge to coordinate disaster relief and assistance.  The creation of Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) with specific local knowledge of the needs of their neighbourhoods as well as their resources are expected to improve disaster response.

CERTs will be in a position to assess the vulnerabilities, the skills and the resources of their respective communites and this, government hopes, will create more effective management across the country in the face of any kind of emergency, from hurricanes to man made disasters.

“We hope eventually that everyone in the Cayman Islands will be covered by one of these teams,” said Simon Boxall at the launch on Friday when the teams from the Red Cross and HCMI explained what CERTs are and how they can be formed.

With groups already established in the outer districts, HMCI is now taking the model and rolling out CERT across the Cayman Islands, encouraging local neighbourhoods to create the teams at the grass roots level. The idea is that members of the team will be trained in first aid and in emergency response management but it is the collection of local knowledge by the teams that will make the teams even more effective.

It was explained that the teams will compile information about the specific vulnerability of a given neighbourhood, such as flooding or storm surge, the people in the community that need special assistance, such as the elderly or lone parents with very young children, as well as the doctors or engineers or heavy equipment owners and other skills and resources that may be available in that neighbourhood.

By collating this information the teams will be able to not only coordinate more effectively with the central emergency services in the event of an emergency but they may be able to manage their own needs if the community was cut off.

The director of HMCI, McClearly Frederick, said that the CERT programme was essentially all about communities helping themselves in the first instance in the face of any kind of emergency. “Disaster management is a community affair,” he said as he encouraged neighbourhoods across Cayman to come together and form teams.

Once the teams are formed, HMCI with the help of the Red Cross will organise the training and supply CERTs emergency packs. Aiming to grow the project community by community, the CERTs will become essential sources of knowledge when it comes to coordinating any kind of emergency effort and the first line response in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. The goal is also to help communities becoming more resilient by addressing before a disaster strikes the issues that could make them more vulnerable to a hurricane or flooding. By understanding the vulnerabilities of their neighbourhoods CERTs will also be able to advocate on their behalf to address those needs.

Franz Manderson, chief officer of the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs, explained that the initiative was about communities responding to “hazards at the local level” and as a result becoming more hazard-resilient.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    How do I volunteer for this?

    CNS note: Contact Simon M. Boxall the Communications Officer at HMCI on 244-3145 or 526-2027 email: