Community volunteer groups help to form latest cohort for CERT Training

Participants of the National Emergency Management Agency’s (NEMA) Basic Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Training Programme practice their (small) fire extinguishing technique during Wednesday’s (March 30) session at the Chapel on the Hill Church Compound, Tonique Williams-Darling Highway. (BIS Photo/Matt Maura)

Community volunteers from the Pride Estates Community Association and Neighbourhood Watch, the Harrold Road Heights Homeowners Association, the Blue Hill Heights Homeowners Association, Jubilee Gardens Neighbourhood Watch, and the Baillou Hill Estates Homeowners Association and Neighbourhood Watch, helped to form the latest cohort for the National Emergency Management Agency’s (NEMA) Basic Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Training Programme.

Part Two of the Basic CERT Training Programme got underway Monday (March 28) at the Chapel on the Hill Church Hall and concluded Friday (April 1), just one week after 17 other community volunteers graduated from Part I of the Training Programme (Friday, March 25.) The community volunteers were joined by officials from the National Neighbourhood Watch Council, in addition to representatives from the Office of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction, the Royal Bahamas Police Force, NEMA, Ministry of Works, the Judiciary, and The Bahamas Telecommunications Company.

Mr. Keno Wong, Chairman of the National Neighbourhood Watch Council, Ministry of National Security, said the opportunity to have community volunteers from across the National Neigbourhood Watch Network participate in, and benefit from, the Basic CERT Training “is a very powerful tool and a very powerful component for our country.”

Chairman Wong said the number of Watch Groups in The Bahamas has grown from 40, to 167, primarily in New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco, Exuma and Eleuthera, since the Council’s inception, April 30, 2018 – less than four years ago.

“And every day there is a new community seeking to come on board,” Mr. Wong said. “Imagine. With the training from the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the CERT Training through NEMA coming together as one, you have now increased the number of hands on the ground in the event of a disaster or emergency and so the response times to emergencies and/or disasters become that much more faster, not only for NEMA and/or our Professional First Responders, but also for the impacted communities because with CERT Training, persons in those communities will now be able to help the impacted communities manage certain situations until the Professional First Responders arrive, while at the same time helping to save lives in some situations,” Mr. Wong said.

“When the invitation was extended to participate in the CERT Training by the Neighbourood Watch Group of Baillou Hill Estates, we in the National Neighbourhood Watch Council thought it fit that a few of our Community Leaders who were able to take the time out to come and be a part of CERT, should do so in order that we may become even better leaders.

This week has been an eye opener for us and so we are hoping that, at the end of this five-day training, we will be able to engage with NEMA on an even higher level and partner together so that many of our other community leaders (who help comprise the various Neighbourhood Watches) can be CERT trained so that if a disaster/emergency was to impact our country whether here in New Providence or any other island, they will be able to be called upon to assist,” Mr. Wong added.

Mr. Greg Thompson, a Meteorologist with The Bahamas Department of Meteorology and the Vice -resident of the Baillou Hill Estates Homeowners Association, had high praise for the CERT Training Programme and its facilitators – the Training Department of the National Emergency Management Agency.

Force Chief Petty Officer Darrell Wright, Royal Bahamas Defence Force, conducts a lecture on Disaster Medical Operations for the second cohort of the National Emergency Management Agency’s Basic CERT Training Programme. A 33-year veteran of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, Force Chief Wright is the Operations and Training Force Chief for Medical Facilities, RBDF. In that role, he is responsible for all medical training, upkeep of training, and operations. He is a Certified EMT, Pharmacy Technician and has received training in combat medical operations. Force Chief Wright also saw Peacekeeping duty as a member of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Haiti. (BIS Photo/Matt Maura)

“As a meteorologist, this is a programme that I would highly recommend to everyone to get involved in,” Mr. Thompson said. “The training has been very beneficial to me both as a Meteorologist and as the Vice-President of the Baillou Hills Association. From the Association level, we have a few members in the neighbourhood who have elderly status and we are also home to a school and two churches and so this training can be beneficial to our community in a number of ways.”

As a Meteorologist, Thompson knows, first-hand of the negative impacts climate change can have, is having, especially on Small Island Developing States such as The Bahamas, and the major damage hurricanes that are expected to be bigger and more fierce, can cause. He said having persons at the community level trained in basic First Aid, CPR, light search and rescue, medical operations, fire safety and utility controls, disaster psychology and CERT Organization, is a plus.

“Dorian was a prime example. This CERT Training will assist affected communities in helping to help themselves until the Professional First Responders can arrive,” Mr. Thompson added. Mrs. Lisa Bowleg, Training Coordinator, Training Department, National Emergency Management Agency, said the ability to partner with the diverse group of individuals and organizations, both public and private, “was exciting.”

“Our aim this year is to reach as many communities as possible; to bring about an awareness, to be able to train communities on how to take care of themselves in the event something happens within their communities and the Professional First Responders are not there, or are unable to get to them. We have been so blessed as to have these organizations come on board with us and be able to say to us that they are willing to do this with us, and willing to do it in communities across The Bahamas,” Mrs. Bowleg added.