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Neighbourhood Groups Among those Answering Call for Community Residents to Become Trained Volunteers

NASSAU, The Bahamas – Community volunteers from five Neighbourhood Associations and/or Watches in the southwestern New Providence, were among those answering the call from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for Bahamian residents to become trained community volunteers in the event of emergencies or disasters, after successfully completing the Agency’s most recent Basic Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Training Programme.

Participants included residents from the Baillou Hill Estates Homeowners Association and Neighbourhood Watch, the Harrold Road Heights Homeowners Association, the Blue Hill Heights Neighbourhood Watch, the Pride Estates Community Association and Neighbourhood Watch, and the Jubilee Gardens Neighbourhood Watch.

They were joined by representation from The Bahamas National Neighbourhood Watch Council, Ministry of National Security, staff of the National Emergency Management Agency, the Office of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction, members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Judiciary.

In all, 32 persons successfully completed the two five-day Training Sessions (held March 21-25, and March 25 through April 1) at the Chapel on the Hill Church Compound, and conducted by the Training Department, NEMA, earning the distinction as “trained volunteers” at the community level. Both sessions ended with a Final Drill/Simulation during which time participants were able to put theory into practice.

Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction, the Hon. Myles K. LaRoda, applauded the graduates upon their successful completion of the CERT Training initiatives.

“During disasters, communities need trained volunteers,” the State-Minister told the graduates. “Well-meaning volunteers who show up to disaster sites unprepared and unassigned can make things more difficult for Professional First Responders. By joining a disaster response organization and receiving the proper training before an emergency hits, individuals can support First Responders and keep their communities safe.”

Mrs. Lisa Bowleg, Training Coordinator at the National Emergency Management Agency, congratulated the graduates “on a job well done.”

“They worked as a team to get the job done and we are thankful to now say that we have an additional 18 CERT members in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas,” Mrs. Bowleg said. (The 18 referred to the number of persons graduating from the second cohort of participants. Fourteen others graduated from Part I of the CERT Training making it a total of 32 over the two-week period over which both sessions were held.)

“As part of NEMA’s mandate, we aim to build capacity throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas in terms of disaster management, disaster relief and recovery skills being implemented in communities and so I think that we are well on our way to achieving this result,” Mrs. Bowleg continued, “our goal for this year was to ensure that we got into the communities, that we provided the necessary skillsets in those communities for residents to be able to help themselves and others. Having these additional communities and community of persons on board means that this is now the start of that process of having sufficiently trained individuals to be able to take care of themselves and their communities.”

The participants received expert instruction in areas such as CERT and Terrorism, CERT Organization, Disaster Preparedness, Disaster Medical Operations (including Basic First Aid and CPR), Light Search and Rescue, Fire Safety and Utility Controls and Disaster Psychology.

Samina Castillo, a member of the Harrold Road Heights Homeowners Association, had high praise for the Training, and the team of Instructors.

“We were fortunate to have been backed by a team of very motivated, intelligent, professional and dedicated professionals who knew, and executed, their jobs flawlessly, during this informative, hands-on, emotional, five-day experience. We all entered this training not knowing what to expect, but along the ride, gained so much more. I urge all communities to get involved and participate in this training whenever the opportunity arises. Hurricane Dorian proved to us the kind of damage and destruction disasters such as hurricanes can bring with them; that they can occur at any time, and that sometimes the response from the Professional First Responders may not be immediately available for any number of reasons. If, we as community members know how to help ourselves, we can be that lifeline to our communities until the professional help can arrive – quite possibly helping to save lives along the way.”

Sergeant 3578 Kenisha Forbes, Royal Bahamas Police Force and Liaison Officer for the Southwestern Neighbourhood Watches, praised the Instructors for their innovation, and team and leadership-building components.

“The course was very innovative, very informative,” Sergeant Forbes said. “At the beginning, we were strangers, but by the end of it, we were all working as a collective which was amazing. The knowledge gained from participating in this course will assist all of us in becoming even better leaders in our various communities going forward.”

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