Following a gruelling eight day course in Jamaica, where participants managed a simulated disaster scene, Disaster Manager for the Cayman Islands Red Cross, Danielle Coleman, has qualified as a Regional Intervention Team member.
This means she will now be part of the local and regional disaster response mechanism. She can also now train disaster management volunteers for National Intervention Teams both in the Cayman Islands as well as in other Overseas Territories.
The course, which took place in May, was a tough one to get into in the first place, as only one spot was open to Overseas Territories. Taking place in the mountains of Mandeville, Jamaica, the training was physically and emotionally demanding.
“You do exactly what you would do on a mission,” explained Ms Coleman. “The simulation starts in an airport with your bags being checked. Throughout the week there are kidnappings, thefts, people collapsing – a lot of the work is in real communities so you don’t know what’s real and what’s fake. They make it as real as possible.”
The conditions, she said, were also similar to what one might encounter in a disaster situation: cold nighttime temperatures, sleeping in tents, two to three hours sleep a night.
The training covered a variety of topics, ranging from water and sanitation, to psycho-social support, management of the deceased and communication and logistics, among others. Although Ms Coleman had covered much of the material previously in her training as a member of the British Red Cross Emergency Response Unit, she felt one of the most valuable aspects of the training was observing how people react under extreme stress.
As an RIT, Ms Coleman could be deployed elsewhere in the region to lead a response team in a logistics capacity, should local branches of the Red Cross request assistance. Whereas previously the Cayman Islands Red Cross had to bring in RITs from abroad to lead training courses, Ms Coleman can now conduct the training and refresher courses for National Intervention Teams. NIT is the highest level of training for a local responder within the Red Cross system.
In the next few days she will travel to Colombia to give a presentation on her recent training and next month she will run the National Intervention Team training in Turks and Caicos.
“It’s great to be able to continue to offer support to our fellow Red Cross societies in the region, which is something that the Cayman Islands Red Cross has done for years,” Ms Coleman added. “Exposure to other Red Cross societies, be it in times of peace or disaster, allows us to look more critically at what we are doing at home and fine tune that which needs improvement.”