Communities on the front line as Disaster Managers

Members of the community doing practical exercises in disaster management. Photo UNDP

“In a battlefield, if the frontline is breached, you can lose your entire battle. When it comes to disaster management, the frontline is the community. To strengthen your frontline, you have to strengthen your community”. This comes from General Brigadier Retired Earl Arthurs, Emergency Operations Specialist at the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and lead on this initiative, 'An introduction to Community Emergency Response Training (CERT)'.


  • 27 participants from 4 islands have come to Barbados to participate in CERT training.
  • Barbados marks the 3rd CERT training that the ERC project has funded.
  • CERT training has been completed in 3 countries – Grenada, Montserrat and Barbados

When natural hazards occur, such as hurricanes, fires, floods or earthquakes, the reality is that professional emergency response teams cannot be at the scene instantaneously. Situations arise where professionals cannot reach the community and they have to rely on themselves.

“People who live in the community even though they may not be trained, or professional first responders, they aren’t firemen, or nurses, or doctors, or paramedics. But for all intents and purposes, they are the first people who can deal with problems, until the requisite professionals arrive. We know of cases where people have died simply because the community did not know how to adequately manage the problem … we realize that they needed some type of training whereby they could stabilize the process before the professionals get there”, stated Danielle Skeete, Programme Officer at the Caribbean Department of Emergency Management in Barbados.

The Caribbean Department of Emergency Management (CDEMA) is the lead agency for implementation of Output 2.1 (Building capacity for volunteerism based on the best practices of the Italian Civil Protection Agency) and 2.2 (Developing the capacity of the NEMO) of the Enhancing Resilience to Reduce Vulnerability in the Caribbean (ERC) project Funded by the ERC project this training is being conducted in several Caribbean countries. CERT training has been completed in Grenada and Montserrat with the most recent session being conducted in Barbados, set to finish on Friday, March 15th 2013. Currently 27 community members from four islands (Barbados, Saint Lucia, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines) are participating in the CERT training in Barbados.

This initiative seeks to train members of the community so that they go back into their communities, and with the cooperation with their national disaster officers, they will continue to train members of the community.  This method increases the number of CERT agents in different communities throughout the islands.

“We have provided a kit of equipment for the trainees. Each kit is set up with an array of emergency tools. From safety gear to personal protective clothing, the trainees leave this session well prepared for any disaster that hits their community”, notes General Arthurs.

“I trained in Grenada”, states Maria Mayers, “I have come back to Barbados to continue more training. Grenada was a different terrain, so it was hard. We had to carry people down mountains. Here in Barbados, its more coastal, so the training is different. I now have knowledge on how to manage different disaster situations in different types of places. I’ve learned about triage, chain saw safety in the event of hurricanes and earthquakes. I can stabilize the situation until the professionals come”.

ERC continues to support this initiative with preparations already in place for another training session to be held in Barbados again this year.

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