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Mar 12, 2020

Community Disaster Response Team Conducts Simulation

The Belize Red Cross and the City Emergency Management Organization conducted three disaster simulations today in Belize City. The exercises are to complement two months of training where thirty residents did a series of sessions to learn about disaster preparedness and response. Today, that project wrapped up when they tested their knowledge to demonstrate their capacity to respond in times of emergencies.  News Five was on the scene to see how well the community disaster response team activated their emergency plan in their community. Here’s the story with Andrea Polanco.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Just after ten this morning, a fire broke out at house across from the Cumberbatch Field in Belize City. Several persons are trapped. The authorities are not yet on the scene, so the residents are responding to the cries of help. Fire-fighters arrive to put out the blaze and they are assisted by first responders on the scene – these are people who live in the area. They are now evacuating the persons inside – some of whom are injured. These responders are residents who live in the Lake Independence, Collet and Port Loyola divisions in Belize City. They are now activating their plans in time of an emergency.


Thomas Rivas

Thomas Rivas, Member, Belize Institute of Search and Rescue

“Definitely we need them because they are the community disaster response team. They are the first to respond. Whatever happens, fire, hurricane or a collapsed building – they will be the first ones to be called. Like I was telling them, they will represent the community because it is their community that they are looking after.”


The responders have trained in emergency preparedness and response. They have completed two months of training through a project with the Belize Red Cross.


Jesse Young

Jesse Young, Project Manager, Capacity Building Project, BRC

“They are being trained in community disaster preparedness and response in different areas including damage and needs assessment; shelter management; psycho-social; first-aid; children and adolescence in disaster; violence and crime prevention.”


So, the responders are now putting their knowledge to test in this simulation. CEMO and the Belize Red Cross are leading this community capacity building project.


Jesse Young

“Today we will be looking at how well they can respond in the case of an emergency in a drowning or an accident scene.”


Melanie Dawson

Melanie Dawson, CEMO Liaison Officer, Belize City Council

“What I want to see is the flow and how they work well along together and to see if everything flows well and they know what they are doing. And from that we can strengthen them in areas that we see that they fail.”


And as they concluded their rescue efforts on land, the first responders are called out to sea. There’s been a boat incident that has left several persons stranded at sea. The responders are now working together to bring those persons safely to land.

Tanesha Vernon and Chelsey Colon are two of the first responders. They see the benefits of acquiring new skills and information, as it empowers them, their households and their communities.


Tanesha Vernon

Tanesha Vernon, Lake I Resident

“I had no knowledge about safety, disaster or so. I was invited to be a part of the CDRT training coordinated by the Belize Red Cross. There are a many things that I thought that I knew about my community and my country in general. So, being a part of this CDRT has broadened my knowledge about certain things, how to respond and how to react and who to contact and so forth.   The fire safety, I was afraid of fire so I overcame that phobia about how to extinguish the fire, how to respond and assess damages and   lot of things I never knew about.”


Chelsey Colon, Collet Resident

“In the simulation, I was in the search and rescue team. Basically, we just go out and search for the people who need rescue and we just take them out so that the first aid can do their thing with the patients.”


Andrea Polanco

“What was this experience like for you? Was it scary? Was it new?”


Chelsey Colon

Chelsey Colon

“I had some training for it in Cayo, so it wasn’t too new. Out there it was fun and a nice experience for me out there today.”


Andrea Polanco

“So, why did you decide that you want to be a part of this as a member of the Collet community?”


Chelsey Colon

“It is so that I can gain experience because where I live many disasters happen. Over there gets flooded and so for this, to me, it is a big gain so that when I go out there I can know what to do. I can get people to help me and I can rescue them and give them information. So, it is a big gain for me and my community.”


Today the responders are being assessed by a team on the ground. This evaluation will help to find out the strengths and weaknesses which will help to determine future training opportunities. Thomas Rivas is one of the evaluators.


Thomas Rivas

“We are here to do the evaluation of all the extraction and evaluation of patients, to make sure that they have it right, protecting the patients and also doing the extraction without giving the patients additional injury when doing the extraction.”


Andrea Polanco

“How did this team perform – if you had to give them a grade – A, B, C, how did they do?”


Thomas Rivas

“It is actually the first scenario they ever had since the training. Some of them have trained a couple months ago, so giving them a score from one to five, I would definitely give them a three and a half because it is the first time they are doing it as a reality with all the attractions, simulation and everything; the stressful parts and how to deal with it and work with time and with the weather.”


Andrea Polanco

“The boat collision – how did that go?”


Thomas Rivas

“I think it was the more challenging one of the two because they did swift water rescue and this isn’t swift water rescue; this is an open water rescue. So, the distance, working with the wind, current, and everything, it was kind of difficult for them not having all the facilitated things that they needed.”


Andrea Polanco

“So, based on what’ve you seen this group needs some additional training for them to prepare and respond should a disaster happen in this area?”


Thomas Rivas



A third simulation with a road traffic accident wrapped up the field exercises. Following today’s simulation, the community first responders will be certified and equipped with tools and equipment to use in the event of an emergency in their community. They will also become members of the CEMO team and will receive more training in emergency preparedness and response. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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