Four hundred Haitian earthquake survivors are graduating today from a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training in disaster preparedness and response. They have been trained by a delegation of New York City CERT instructors at a ‘displaced persons’ camp.
The team has been teaching the CERT program to classes of 40 to 50 people over a 10-day period. The lessons are based on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s national CERT curriculum which has been been modified to meet the needs of Haiti’s population. Witt Associates has been working with the J/P Haitian Relief Organization and the UN Development Programme to bring the CERT training to Haiti.
The 12-member New York City team is comprised of: 4 Haitian-Creole speaking firefighters instructing CERT trainees in fire suppression and light search and rescue; 2 FDNY EMS personnel teaching first aid and triage; 2 Health Department employees running courses in public health; 3 OEM staff members assisting with course instruction and manage the team; and 1 senior CERT instructor serving as an adviser and helping manage the team. There will be a disaster simulation for the trainees along with the graduation. It is the first time CERT has been taught there.
Herman Schaffer, the NYC team leader, has been keeping an interesting journal of the experience and posting it on the City’s Office of Emergency Management’s Facebook page. An excerpt is below:
June 9th: Training is going better than expected, primarily because of high levels of organization at Camp Petionville. We have just under 100 trainees today, including 18 women. The trainees are organized into two companies, A and B, each with four sections. Each section is composed of 14 people, including one Rapid Responder. These Rapid Responders had previous leadership roles in the camp and manage all administrative duties in their sections, like taking attendance, selecting volunteers, moving groups from one place to another, taking questions, etc. Their assistance allows the fire and health trainers to focus purely on instruction.
The class portion is conducted with two instructions using a PA system to speak to all 100 students seated in bleachers. The practical sections are broken down by sections (14 people). Each day, every trainee gets an MRE for lunch. I had to bring my own sandwich today, because the MREs are too salty for me.
On June 8, we trained the volunteers in fire safety. The course was interrupted by an hour-and-a-half monsoon and we had to move into two large tents to finish the classroom portion. When the storm passed, we practiced putting out different types of fires: five charcoal fires, one wood fire, and one plastic fire. The plastic fire helped highlight the different health threats and firefighting techniques required by various fires. The trainees felt empowered by the lesson and decided to collect all the plastic trash in the camp to reduce the threat that it could add to fires.