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Searchers and Rescuers

Learning proper use of the Stokes basket

When 14 men and one woman successfully completed five weeks' intensive training Monday, 27 August, on Grand Cayman, they created history by becoming the Islands' first qualified urban search and rescue team.

They now have both the necessary expertise and equipment to carry out search and rescue operations as responders to disasters, including hurricanes and building collapses from earthquakes.

First response to injured persons was an important lesson.

As a result, the keenly enthusiastic, close-knit team translates into an asset not only for the Cayman Islands but also the entire region, especially other British Overseas Territories. More importantly, their impressive responsiveness has their trainers, Mr. Ron Mobley and Mr. Dwayne Straun, classifying them among the best the duo has taught so far.

The training was provided through the Regional Risk Reduction Initiative (R3i) that is funded by the European Union, and managed by the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP). It was facilitated by the Caribbean Emergency Response Training Academy (CERTA), a privately owned company headquartered in the British Virgin Islands. Coordinating the whole exercise was Hazard Management Cayman Islands, notably its Director McCleary Frederick, who ensured that Cayman received the training.

Participants got to practise rappelling for the first time during the course.

The 15 officers represent the Fire Services, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Services, Her Majesty's Prison Service, Customs and Immigration departments, Emergency Medical Services and the Cadet Corps.

The Team Leader is Cayman Brac Fire Officer Witney Tatum while the Deputy Team Leader is RCIPS Officer Adrian Clarke, who is stationed on Grand Cayman. Other team members are Fire Services officers Tiffany Ebanks, Rodney Rivers, Colbert Miller, Philip Stewart, Christopher McLaughlin, Vincent McElroy and Sean Martinez; Prison Officer Nathaniel Daley; Customs Officer Nicholas Rivers; Immigration Officer Josen Ebanks; Emergency Medical Service Officer Hal Ebanks and Cadet Corps officers Ian Richards and Ricardo Henry.

Fire Services Officer Vincent McElroy receives his certificates from Chief Fire Officer Mr. Dennom Bodden.

Each member is now trained to International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) standards and guidelines, the benchmark around the world, and received individual certificates for the different components of their basic training such as handling hazardous materials and emergency medical response including CPR. They can also seek further training in individual or all components to continue upgrading their certification.

The Regional Risk Reduction Initiative (R3i) also provided all the equipment (stored at the Fire Services) that the members trained with and require for conducting search and rescue operations. This includes the Stokes basket, pulleys and ropes used in hoisting up the rescued as well as a backboard, pry bars, shovels, saws and helmets.

Administering CPR was a requisite component of the training.

Currently, the logistics of the team's deployment, continued preparation and consolidation of their training are being addressed under Mr. Frederick's guidance.

Department heads are elated at the entire training exercise. Fire Services' Chief Fire Officer Mr. Dennom Bodden summed up their sentiments: "This training will certainly expand the knowledge base of the participants and is a life-long commitment for the team. Thanks go to Mr. Frederick for making this initiative available to us in the Cayman Islands."

The officers practise searching amidst collapsed buildings.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer (Administration) Mr. Rosworth McLaughlin, who has oversight for training in the Fire Services, explained that the Fire Services coordinated the training at the local level by pulling the team together from amongst all emergency services. He welcomed the training which would develop new skill sets, gain invaluable experience and build their core competencies.

"The training will enable them to perform their duties at a more professional level," Mr. McLaughlin commented, adding, "A highly trained Civil Service is as asset to any country. In the Cayman Islands, staff training and development are required by the Public Service Management Law and Regulations."

Taking that first leap off the side of a building, with the trainer's help

Mr. Frederick said the third time around was the charm for Cayman after two previous unsuccessful attempts to get such training going with Miami-Dade county and Fairfax County Virginia, Task Force 1. "We needed to start somewhere; it brings in a valuable component that we have been lacking," he commented. "Such a team can assist locally or in the region, if necessary. We will need to continue to build on their skills and will be looking to take advantage of any opportunities in the region to take their training further," he added.

Fire Services Trainer and Senior Division Officer Duane Tibbetts was responsible for coordinating and facilitating the trainers at the local level. He explained that the lessons covered both classroom work held at the Fire Services training room and practical work, in which all the participants performed outstandingly. "We are very proud of their accomplishments," he said.

The trainees with (from left, front row) Deputy Chief Fire Officer Mr. Rosworth McLaughlin (third), Trainers Dwayne Straun and Ron Mobley, HMCI Director Mr. McCleary Frederick and Fire Services Senior Division Officer Mr. Duane Tibbetts, who facilitated the course

Cayman is among only four regional territories (others are Aruba, Curacao, and Turks and Caicos) that have availed themselves of this training so far, CERTA Chief Operations Officer and lead trainer Mr. Mobley revealed. "We have conducted very good courses in the region so far. The Cayman group was the crème de la crème. They pushed hard and went above and beyond what is expected, proving it is not just a job anymore."

"In fact, we are not just a group of trained officers but a family of searchers and rescuers," Team Leader Mr. Tatum said, concluding, "The training has been a fantastic experience."


For further information contact: Bina Mani