Still taking its cues from the lessons learned from the passing of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, preparedness is still the word of the day at the Cayman Islands Red Cross, where volunteers and staff continue to ensure the community is ready and able to respond in the event any disaster strikes the Islands.
Since its inception, the container project has been an integral part of the organisation’s preparedness strategy. Located at key locations throughout Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, these containers are stocked with emergency supplies which will allow communities to access necessary items, such as tarps and hygiene kits, in the event that they are isolated due to a major disaster.
“We’ve seen how a major hurricane, and any other such disaster in fact, can essentially split the Island in multiple pieces by limiting or outright restricting access to certain districts,” said Disaster Manager Danielle Coleman. “These containers allow communities to be self sufficient for those vital hours and perhaps even days until the roads can be cleared up and access to other supplies re-established.”
Red Cross volunteers and corporate entities have worked side by side throughout the summer months to ensure that these containers are properly maintained and stocked so that they are in the best possible shape prior to any emergency.
Volunteers from PricewaterhouseCoopers played an important role in this maintenance activity. “This was a great opportunity to get an understanding of what the Red Cross does in Cayman. The volunteers enjoyed helping out at head office and the Red Cross container in Bodden Town. It was a great way to spend the morning and I look forward to volunteering at the Red Cross again,” said Kerryn Nurick, senior associate ofPricewaterhouseCoopers.
“The Red Cross was great in giving us a brief overview of what they do, and the PwC staff were more than happy to lend a helping hand in getting the Red Cross more prepared to implement their activities. It was a pleasure volunteering at the Red Cross, as they are well organised and the utmost professionalism was sighted,” said Stephanie Weder, senior associate.
Volunteers from Diamonds International were also on hand to assist the Red Cross with preparedness activities. General Manager On Azriel stated, “Diamonds International is proud to be supporting the Cayman Islands Red Cross, as we truly feel that the support this organisation offers to our community is invaluable. We are happy to be able to help out in any way possible for such a worthy cause.”
Red Cross volunteers have also been busy undergoing numerous trainings and development activities offered by the Red Cross University. These activities range from monthly trainings that cover topics from communication to warehousing to intensive advanced workshops. The latest of these was a three day “Leadership” workshop where they assisted in the development of an updated Emergency Response Manual for the organisation, as well as in establishing the core team which will be responsible for spearheading some key components of the department (such as communications, warehouse, generation, etc.).
“The greatest resource which the Red Cross movement has is its people,” Ms Coleman said. “Therefore it is only logical that we will continue to develop their skills and provide them opportunities to utilise those skills. Volunteers who reach such a high level of training are also given tremendous responsibility for ensuring that they deliver on what is expected of them. We are very fortunate to have such a great team of people who take this role very seriously.”
Even with all the work being done internally, volunteers and staff have also been actively involved in building community capacity through numerous training initiatives.
The Red Cross, working in collaboration with Hazard Management Cayman Islands, has trained community emergency response teams in areas including vulnerability and capacity assessment, which will help them in determining the risks and resources of their communities, as well as psycho-social support and stress management, first aid/CPR, and shelter management.
Furthermore, Red Cross staff have also delivered trainings to private companies ranging from the overview training “Disaster 101” to more tailoured workshops designed to meet a company’s specific needs.
“Even though the Red Cross is the largest voluntary based organisation in Cayman, our volunteers still can’t be everywhere at all times. Therefore it is important that we empower communities- either through initiatives like CERTs or via their workplace- so that they are more resilient and better equipped to provide an immediate response internally in the event of a disaster,” Ms Coleman said.
While the Cayman Islands have been spared from any storm related headaches so far this season, both Tropical Storm Ernesto and Hurricane Isaac served as useful training exercises for the local Red Cross. Among many activities that were spurred on by the threat of these storms, containers were chained down, the shelter was cleaned and restocked, first aid kits were checked and updated, shelter managers reported for duty and the vehicles were fully prepared.
“The difficulty when it comes to disaster preparedness, both for the individual and for different organisations, is to keep people engaged when there are lulls, and there are many many lulls,” said Roger Brown, disaster management communications team member. “As an organisation that responds on a national level the Red Cross has to strike that fine balance where we, the volunteers, are motivated during the lulls but not overly-exhausted when there is a chance we may need to respond.”
Even with the threat of Ernesto, the disaster management communications team managed to finalise the antennae project, which will significantly improve the organisation’s communications capabilities.
“This is a project that began many years ago, and as someone who was involved with it from day one it is a major accomplishment for the DM communications team,” Mr. Brown said. “This is a good example of the right type of motivation that brings disaster preparedness to life for us. It is no longer about a theory or a plan that lives only on paper. Here is something tangible that will bring tangible benefits. We may not need to use for a while, but we know that it’s there and ready when it is needed and it’s a great feeling to know that you’ve had a role to play in such an accomplishment.”
To get involved, contact the Red Cross at 949-6785 ext. 22.