#Providenciales, August 17, 2019 – Turks and Caicos – It looks both frightening and fun; repelling down a steep cliff in the beautiful Turks and Caicos Islands but this was serious business on both Friday in Providenciales and Saturday in Middle Caicos led by trainers sent in by Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, CDEMA to support a DDME workshop.
The Department of Disaster Management and Emergencies, DDME has led this kind of training before; USAR or Urban Search and Rescue is a workshop engineered to increase how many people in the islands are able to conduct rescues in the most grueling conditions.
George Hazel, a paramedic from Trinidad and Tobago spoke to Magnetic Media on day five of a six-day training. In a clearing off South Dock road is where the group was able to put into practice the theoretical instruction from earlier this week.
“The skill which they are doing now is repelling, which is part of what they are required to do as a search and rescue team,” said Mr. Hazel who said the training would intensify and require the rescue trainees to repel, find a patient and haul them back up the cliff.
On Friday, the group was required to scale this 85-foot drop – several times, up and down – men and women, alike.
The training is a part of a plan which has been unravelling since 2016, explained Hazel. The high angle and low angle rescues have been done before, this week provided a refresher of the skills and added techniques in rescuing from a collapsed structure. Next time, the search and rescue capacity for the Turks and Caicos Islands will be bolstered with exposure to water rescues.
“The third portion is the water rescue component and will involve swift water rescue.”
Rayon Bifield was the man we caught on camera repelling down the cliff. Bifield is an EMT and self-confessed adrenaline-junkie, who said for him it was exciting and important.
“It has been a tremendous experience. It is a good skill and one we can not only use for recreational purposes but one we can use to save somebody’s life. As an EMT, the possibility that somebody is injured you know that you have an EMT on board who can go down and do the necessary assessment, packaging and retrieve of a patient.”
DDME Radio and Communications & Telecommunications Specialist, Mark Wilkinson agreed that it has been a successful week.
“This has been very satisfying, and as part of the Department, I am very comfortable to go out there and rescue persons in the event we are called upon. This has been an area where we really needed to build capacity and strengthen our numbers. Based on how we are designed and how some islands are far a part, it is important that we build these numbers so that we can be apart of that first responding team.”
DDME, Emergency Medical Services, TCI Airports Authority, volunteers including an off-duty police officer, the District Commissioner for Middle Caicos, Frederick Johnson and five women were among those trained in this specialized search and rescue; USAR.
“Yes, this kind of training is becoming increasingly important. Not just here in TCI, but worldwide. Sometimes we think that search and rescue is only when someone goes missing in Middle Caicos or somewhere, but we have to remember that after a hurricane or a storm, if a house is badly damaged or blown down, then persons like myself or a member of the team will have to go in and skillfully take that person out.”
Wilkinson reminded of the region’s susceptibility to small earthquakes and collapsed buildings.
Magnetic Media was informed that the trainees completing the course are now also equipped and certified to assist CDEMA in search and rescue operations in neighboring countries including Jamaica, Haiti or The Bahamas.
The training instructors were: Abdias Samuel, National Disaster Coordinator, National Emergency Management Agency, St. Kitts and Nevis; George Hazel, Clinical Services Manager, Emergency Training Institute of Trinidad and Tobago and Carlos Bishop, Leading Fire Officer, Barbados Fire Service.