Published 4th July 2006, 3:18pm
Major volunteer organisations in the Cayman Islands are geared up and ready to meet the challenges generated by disasters and emergencies, whenever they occur. The Cayman Islands branch of the British Red Cross and the Cayman Chapter of ADRA, the Adventist Disaster Relief Agency which is also a world-wide body, are both in preparedness mode. Lessons learned from Hurricane Ivan have translated into both agencies fine-tuning and strengthening their preparedness and relief operations. CI Red Cross Director Jondo Malafa Obi explains that a significant step in the preparedness regimen is the training that Red Cross offers its 250 local volunteers, for handling disasters. The pre-season training covered first-aid, CPR and how to use AEDs - automated external defibrillators, often the first line of help for persons undergoing sudden heart attacks. Closer to the season, the Red Cross conducted workshops for volunteers on shelter management, psychological support, and communication (radio transmission). These concluded in April and were for persons who volunteered to man shelters whenever these open for disasters such as impending hurricanes. At each of the government-run shelters, the Red Cross sends two first aid volunteers to support the Shelter Management Team. Additionally, Red Cross volunteers serve in the organisation's own shelter located at its headquarters on Huldah Avenue. The shelter is the first one to open prior to an impending hurricane. However, unlike the government-run shelters, the Red Cross shelter usually remains open for only up to 36 hours (and rarely up to a maximum of 72 hours) after a disaster has struck. After that, the organisation moves into post-disaster management mode. One significant Red Cross programme is its Container Project. Non-perishable, non-food supplies are stock-piled in containers, including one each on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. In Grand Cayman, seven containers are located in the five districts -- two in George Town, one each in West Bay, Bodden Town, North Side, East End and Frank Sound. Volunteers are specially trained in management and distribution of supplies from these containers, including being able to act independently if they are cut-off from Red Cross headquarters. The containers stock tarpaulins, buckets, jerry-cans, flashlights etc. For relief supplies, Cayman is served by two regional operations of the International Federation of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies located in Trinidad and Panama. At the Pan American Disaster Relief Unit's huge warehouse in Panama, the British Red Cross specifically stockpiles supplies for each of the British Overseas Territories which can be rushed to the affected island should the need arise. These supplies are replenished when used. ADRA Cayman is a branch of the worldwide organisation run by the Seventh-day Adventists. Yet across the world, ADRA is strictly a community-based body with its membership open to all. The help and services it offers are equally available to everyone, as per its mandate. It is also geared to be always prepared for emergencies. ADRA Cayman is supported by ADRA West Indies located in Jamaica and the Inter-American Division located in Miami, Florida. President of the Cayman Islands Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Dr. Jeffrey K. Thompson, explains that as soon as any serious threat of a natural disaster manifests, ADRA in Cayman can put in a request to their headquarters for help with supplies. Currently, the Cayman chapter is in the process of stocking materials which are stored in two containers located in Pedro in Savannah. Supplies are usually non-perishables. Additionally, certain items such as drinking water are pre-positioned. Importantly, ADRA Cayman has recourse to the highly valuable asset of labour through its members and volunteers. For instance just before Hurricane Ivan, ADRA Cayman built a home in Bodden Town so sturdy that it comfortably withstood the ravaging forces of Hurricane Ivan. After that disaster, ADRA provided repair materials such as roofing materials and nails to make damaged homes habitable. And the assistance did not stop there: ADRA also provided the labour needed to complete the repairs. After Ivan, 27 homeowners received such assistance. ADRA Cayman further provides assistance to neighbours in the region when they are devastated by disasters. Such help was provided when Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras several years ago. To enable better preparedness, ADRA Cayman puts on fundraising events to generate funds community work in Cayman. Additionally, it receives donations from local businesses and organisations in the form of goods and materials that it puts to good use.