Disaster agencies from St. Kitts and Nevis are currently attending a three-day training workshop aimed at sharpening their skills to respond to disasters in the federation’s territorial waters.
Participants are drawn from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), St. Kitts-Nevis Coast Guard Unit, St. Kitts-Nevis Fire and Rescue Services (SKNFRS), St. Kitts-Nevis Red Cross Society, Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise Department, the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and the United States Navy Ship (USNS) Comfort.
“It is one that brings all of our national stakeholders together who have responsibility for responding to any threat or impact of a natural hazard or man-made disaster,” said Claricia Langley-Stevens, Deputy National Disaster Coordinator for NEMA. “We thought it was important to grab hold of the opportunity while the Comfort was visiting, to be able to expose primarily Fire and Rescue Services and the St. Kitts-Nevis Defence Force, particularly the Coast Guard, to some of the training exercises.”
Participants are engaging in several events, including shipboard firefighting, rescue swimming, and deep water diving.
On Wednesday, training began with a classroom presentation where navy rescue swimmers introduced techniques and procedures from water rescues to officers of the SKNFRS and the Coast Guard Unit. They then journeyed to Frigate Bay to practice some of the procedures in shallow waters. A diving exercise with Coast Guard personnel, as well as a fire and rescue drill onboard the USNS Comfort, are scheduled for Thursday.
The training culminates with a demonstration on Friday near the pier on the Bay Road in Basseterre.
“We will take all those lessons learned throughout the week and we will do a search and rescue demonstration. We are going to demonstrate search and rescue from a helicopter and the Coast Guard is going to demonstrate a rescue as well,” said Lt. Cmdr.John Rashap, Officer in charge of the Helicopter Detachment onboard USNS Comfort. “There is also a part of the search and rescue demo that is very important… at the start of the demonstration, we are going to activate EMS. So it is exercising some domestic services for St. Kitts and Nevis and it is to exercise these services in the event of a natural disaster.”
Mrs. Langley Stevens noted that Friday’s event will be a true test of the training.
“Friday we are going to be able to bring our lessons learned and best practices together in a scenario to be able to demonstrate that if something does occur in the St. Kitts and Nevis waters that our officers would have deeper knowledge and practical capabilities, as well as knowing the right type of equipment to be able to get the job done,” she said.
Lt. Cmdr. Reshap commended the participants for their level of cooperation, and said the exchange between the staff onboard the USNS Comfort and all the agencies involved is one that should be commended, and applauded the agency representatives for their level of professionalism.
The training, which runs from Oct. 9-11, is described as a mutually beneficial exercise supported by the USNS Comfort, NEMA and by extension the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis.