MAJOR’S CAY, Crooked Island – The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in partnership with the United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and the United States Public Health Services trained a group of residents in highly-skilled water rescue techniques in the event a disaster strikes the community.
Crooked Island was one of the islands in the Southeast Bahamas that received massive damage during the passage of Hurricane Joaquin last October.
The training would also equip the participants in life-saving skills: during the hurricane The Grand Mary, the one-mile stretch of road between Fairfield and Cripple Hill was under more than five feet of water, which stood for several months hampering the transportation of goods and supplies to those in dire need.
Hence, the Surface Water Rescue Course Levels I & II provide techniques and skills to members of the various settlements on the island. The course was held May 9-12, 2016 and involved twelve participants — 11 from the island and one from New Providence.
The objectives of the course are to: enhance correct execution of tasks, enhance communication between rescuers, and provide a guide for ongoing training.
The opening and closing ceremonies were addressed by Captain Stephen Russell, Director, NEMA; Family Island Administrator Francita Neely; Jeffrey Smith, USNORTHCOM, United States Embassy, Nassau; and Captain John Holland, US Public Health Services.
Captain Holland said he was impressed with the efforts of the participants, who “may have been the best” in all the training exercises conducted so far in the islands.
Captain Russell reiterated the goal of NEMA, which is to prepare Family Island communities for the upcoming hurricane season, and beyond. He noted that a primary reason for the training is to equip residents with life-saving skills.
The team on the island is the 11th set of trained residents in the country over the past five years.
“NEMA is tasked with making sure all the islands are resilient to withstand and respond to any disaster, natural or manmade,” he said.
In congratulating the team on its achievement, Administrator Neely said “You all know what we have been through; you are now equipped with boats and equipment to get from point A to point B.”
Course facilitators were: Luke Bethel, Training Officer, NEMA; Jeffrey Smith, USNORTHCOM, United States Embassy, Nassau; Captain John Holland, US Public Health Services; and Commander Kiel Fisher, US Department of Health and Human Services.
Course participants were: Anthon Miller, Royal Bahamas Police Force; Devaughn Newry, Royal Bahamas Police Force; Darrel Moss, Department of Environmental Health Services; Edward Ferguson, Department of Environmental Health Services; Thomas Thompson, driver; Oniel Gilbert, Romeiko Burrows, Royal Bahamas Defence Force; Rueben Ferguson, Department of Environmental Health Services; Kenneth Scavella, Bonefish Guide; and Derick Ingraham, Fisherman.
They were charged with protecting themselves first at all times, being their brother’s keeper, continuing training, keeping the equipment and gear in working condition, having meetings with residents, and knowing the protocol and operational procedures for the activation of the surface water rescue team.
The equipment comprises high water safety gear, apparel and supplies for life guards, search and rescue teams, rescue swimmers, life jackets, helmets neoprene wetsuits, survival suits, wet boots, rescue PFDs, fins, river paddle boards, rescue throw bags, swift water rescue raft boats, among others.
The Family Island Administrator will ensure safekeeping of equipment.
This training came on the heels of the Surface Water Rescue Course, Levels I & II held in George Town, Exuma, March 7 to 10, 2016.