“Thanks to this training, if there is a problem in my community there will certainly be fewer casualties,” explains Frantzer Jean. He is one of the participants in a series of trainings that helps vulnerable neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to prevent disasters and respond to emergencies. “Had we had this training before the January 12 earthquake, I am sure there would have been fewer victims in our community,” he remarks.
The American Red Cross, in partnership with the Haitian Red Cross, has helped create eight local intervention teams—20 people in each—in different zones of the Carrefour-Feuilles area of Port-au-Prince. Team members receive training and tools so they can effectively reduce the exposure to risk in their neighborhoods and be the first line of response for emergencies.
Since members of these intervention teams already live in the community, responders can be mobilized quickly and have great impact in reducing the consequences of future disasters.
“This training is really beneficial for the safety of the community,” explains Jean-Paul Jean-Quesnel, who coordinates the intervention team in Croix-Deprez. “Whenever there is an emergency situation, instead of looking for help in remote areas, we can give first aid and reduce the damage,” he points out.
Today, Frantzer and Jean-Paul joined their teams to practice search-and-rescue exercises. They learned how to cross a collapsed bridge during a disaster using climbing rope and other specialized equipment. They practiced the exercise multiple times and learned how to evacuate people across the rope, transporting fellow trainees who posed as disaster victims with broken bones.
In previous sessions, trainees learnt how to manage emergency alert systems, temporary shelters, and water supply. In addition to practical skills, trainees also had a chance to talk about the standard practices of relief operations.
The American Red Cross has equipped intervention teams in Haiti with a wide range of tools and supplies, like boots, gloves, shovels and wheelbarrows. “Those materials are going to be useful for sanitation, to dig and clean out irrigation canals,” expresses Michaelle Louis, a member of the local authorities of Croix-Deprez. “Thanks to the support provided by the American Red Cross, we will now be able to intervene and carry out all necessary work, such as cleaning the streets following heavy rains,” she adds. Simple interventions like this reduce the risk of flooding and epidemics in the communities.
Intervention teams strengthen the national capacity to prevent and respond to disasters. They coordinate with Haiti’s Civil Defense network and their work complements the existing system. Currently, intervention teams are supporting the local Civil Defense branch to ensure the safety of mass public events such as football matches, local festivals or the annual carnival celebrations.
Since 2010, the American Red Cross has worked with Haitians to assess their vulnerabilities and help identify ways to reduce the impact of various threats. Even though major events like the January 2010 earthquake are often the most visible, Haiti faces frequent natural disasters, including floods and hurricanes. Building on experience around the globe, the American Red Cross has included disaster preparedness in all of its activities, which have reached more than 484,000 Haitians.