Regional Disaster Relief Unit ends week of training with field exercise

Bridgetown, Barbados, March 26th, 2014 (CDEMA) - “A clear understanding of roles, responsibilities, functions and rules of engagement during relief operations is extremely important for the members of the CARICOM Disaster Relief Unit (CDRU) and this is emphasized during their annual training,” said Joanne Persad, Manager, Response and Recovery, CDEMA as the CDRU ended a week of training with field exercises in St. Croix.

The CDRU provides humanitarian assistance during a regional response to CDEMA Participating States impacted by a natural or technological hazard. The team is drawn from military, police and fire services and is trained and equipped to function with available resources in specialized areas after an impact.

This year the training was held at the Virgin Islands National Guard Regional Training Institute from March 17-24. It was delivered through the partnership of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the Regional Security System (RSS), the United States Southern Command (US SOUTHCOM) and hosts the Virgin Islands National Guard.

Persad explained that a critical component of the training is ensuring that the team understands that when deployed they provide support to the civil authorities, in particular the National Disaster Office in the management of relief operations.

The training is also part of the regional readiness programme and participants were briefed on the Regional Response Mechanism, National Emergency Operations Centers, logistics, warehouse management and emergency communications, traumatic event management and civil/military relations.

The final two days of the training were practical field exercises which took the team through the stages of the CDRU operations, from pre-deployment, supporting relief assistance and to demobilization. It also provided the opportunity for hands on training on the response kit and emergency communications equipment used by the CDRU when deployed.

The CDRU prepares for any disaster situation and has been deployed on a number of occasions, notably, after Hurricane Luis (1995) and Hurricane Ivan (2004) and the Haiti Earthquake (2010). Two teams are always ready to respond but this is likely to be increased according to Ronald Jackson, Executive Director CDEMA.

“We have had a chance to learn and adjust our mechanisms as a result of these deployments and the system is becoming stronger and better organized each year…we are mindful of the potential for multi-island impacts and as such look to a near future when we will be training perhaps an additional team each year to give us an ability to deploy at least three teams at any one time,” he said.

Instructors for this training were from the CDEMA Coordinating Unit, RSS, USAID/OFDA, US SOUTHCOM and the Virgin Islands Air and National Guard.

The training has been supported for several years through the US SOUTHCOM.

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