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Members of the Territorial Search and Rescue Team (TSART) participated in an Incident Command Systems Training programme organised through the Department of Disaster Management (DDM).
The Territorial Search and Rescue Team is an initiative approved by Cabinet in 2014, to establish local capacity to respond to all types of search and rescue emergencies whether on land or at sea and to work in conjunction with voluntary organisations. The training session was conducted from September 8 to 9.
Training Officer at the DDM, Ms. Carishma Hicks said Cabinet approved the development of a specialised national Search and Rescue team, comprising of fifteen to twenty officers from the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force and the Virgin Islands Fire and Rescue Services. The team is to be trained, equipped and resourced according to international standards identified in the Capability Assessment Review report.
Ms. Hicks said, “We began training the team in December of 2014 to apply basic navigation techniques and this year, members participated in a search and rescue exercise held on Anegada along with officers from the RFA Lyme Bay and community volunteers.”
Ms. Hicks added that the training programme continued with Incident Command System Training, which was supported by the Pan American Health Organisation and the team will participate in Rope Rescue at levels I and II in November to be facilitated by the Caribbean Emergency Response Training Academy (CERTA) based in the BVI, as well as Search Techniques and Considerations through the BVI Red Cross.
The DDM’s training officer stated that the Territorial Search and Rescue Team is being developed in a manner so that it can be eligible for accreditation through the Urban Search and Rescue Standards developed by the Emergency Management Accreditation Programme (EMAP) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). She said the intention is also to have the team certified for regional and international deployment through the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group, which is a global network of more than 80 countries and organisations endorsed by a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly.
Retired Colour Sergeant from the Barbados Defense Force and PAHO Regional Trainer, Mr. Peter Burgess facilitated the ICS training and commended the Government of the BVI for the efforts being made to establish a Territorial team, which he said is lacking throughout the region.
Mr. Burgess said, “Search and Rescue Teams are becoming more and more critical for response type operations and this was clearly demonstrated following the passage of Hurricane Erika on the island of Dominica. External support was required to assist with locating; extricating and stabilising persons who were injured or trapped due to the numerous landslides and the significant flooding that took place on Dominica.”
Mr. Burgess said that it is important that Governments pay particular attention to ensuring that this resource is immediately accessible to them, especially considering the magnitude of the events that have affected the region in the past.
He also added, “It is important that any search and rescue team being developed is trained to face the complexity of the operations that can occur in the BVI and the wider Caribbean. This area of response requires a highly skilled and disciplined group that can respond to a variety of hazard impacts and that can be immediately available for deployment.”
The DDM is aiming to have the team fully equipped and ready for accreditation and certification by 2018.
Members of the TSART include Steve George, Esau Andrews, Darrin Malone, Rolland Jackson, Terry Humphrey, Jermaine Agard, Algon Smikle, Collis Fraser, Dariel Robinson and Ron Augustine from the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, along with Elroy Chalwell, David Ronan, Elnathan White, Benson Thomas, Gaston Walters, Marcus Malone, Mervin Chinnery, Patrick Victor, Alexander Parillon and Samuel Lettsome from the Virgin Islands Fire and Rescue Service.