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Twenty-six representatives from key emergency response agencies graduated from a two-week search and rescue training course, organised by the Jamaica Fire Brigade’s (JFB) Training Department, on Friday (March 19).
The course was held February 22 to 26 and March 15 to 19, at the JFB’s Training Department, downtown Kingston, and at the Waterford Fire Station, St. Catherine.
It was conducted in collaboration with the United States (U.S.) Southern (Military) Command, and was aimed at enhancing the participants’ response capacity to disasters, such as earthquakes. Funding was provided by the U.S. Government, through the Humanitarian Assistance Programme of the Embassy in Kingston.
The participants included 22 firefighters and representatives of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Jamaica Kennel Club. The areas covered included training in incident command systems, handling mass casualties, vehicular extrication, canine search and rescue and communications.
JFB Commissioner Laurie Williams, who addressed the ceremony at the York Park Fire Station, in Kingston, noted that the fire service had evolved into an “all risk” agency, responding to a “whole plethora of threats”, ranging from structural fire suppression to collapse structure rescue, incorporating hazardous substance response, motor vehicle extrication and medical emergencies.
“It therefore means that, to remain relevant and to provide effective emergency response, (the) fire service must train (its members) to meet these varied demands for service,” the Commissioner advised.
He said, the JFB was “very fortunate” to have benefitted, over the past few years, from the alliance with the US Southern Command.
This collaboration, he pointed out, has seen the agency benefitting from “varied and highly technical training” that has enhanced the competence of its members and, by extension, the organisation.
“We have been so empowered by the consistency and quality of training received, that within 24 hours of the onset of the (earthquake) crisis in Haiti, members of the Jamaica Fire Brigade were a part of the first contingent from Jamaica that joined the international rescue efforts,” he noted.
He urged the graduates to display responsibility in executing their newly acquired skills, as well as share them with their colleagues. He also thanked the stakeholders who contributed to the success of the course.
During the ceremony, Chief Military Liaison Officer at the US Embassy in Kingston, Lt. Colonel Robert Wagner, presented Commissioner Williams with 54 pieces of equipment, valued at US$54,000, which are expected to enhance the JFB’s emergency response capacity. These include air compressors, generators, drills, circular saws and rotary hammers.