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Seniors train to tackle emergencies

PC Cerepha Bridgeman

Around 100 seniors have been armed with the skills to help themselves and others in an emergency situation thanks to a disaster reduction training initiative instigated by the Bermuda Red Cross.

The charity’s disaster manager Diane Gordon has helped bring together multiple organisations who have worked in tandem to inform seniors how to escape a fire, stay safe during a hurricane and in some cases even administer life-saving treatment to a friend or neighbour in the case of a medical emergency.

Ms Gordon made contact with the Bermuda Police Service’s community action teams, which helped to identify a priority list of vulnerable communities to participate in the charity’s Disaster Risk Reduction Programme.

PC Cerepha Bridgeman, who is responsible for Southampton Parish, was quick to identify Bermuda Housing Trust development Dr Cann Park as a location that could benefit significantly from such a programme — a community which she had already worked within.

Dr Cann Park, located on Sea Express Lane, Southampton is a residential area of five blocks inhabited entirely by seniors, many of whom live alone in their home.

As part of the programme, the community was given a Vulnerability and Capability Assessment designed to identify the dangers present in the community, the skills, tools and other resources available, and the actions that can be taken to reduce risk in a disaster.

In addition, surrounding businesses and organisations have joined forces to support the programme and provide any service that might be needed to assist the seniors in case of an emergency. For instance, Dalton E Tucker Primary School and the Calvary Gospel Chapel could provide a roof over their heads in case of a hurricane, Port Royal Gas Station has food supplies and an ATM, the Bermuda Fire Service has staff to implement evacuation plans, and the police service occasionally sends officers to keep an eye on the area.

Speaking on the project at Dr Cann Park, whose residents are being offered the training free of charge, Ms Gordon said: “We learnt that very few of the seniors had skills such as First Aid or CPR [cardiopulmonary resuscitation] training or knew about AED [automated external defibrillator] training. We were able to sit down with them and see if this was something that they needed and they did.

“This group of seniors, who range in age from about 70 through to 90, are a very savvy group. They created team leaders for each block and those who did not attend meetings could always be advised by them. Those team leaders were also trained by the Bermuda Red Cross in First Aid, CPR and AED, so if anything happens, then they have the ability to help themselves as a community first before calling on additional help or waiting for help to arrive. It is all positive work we are doing within the communities. We are looking at additional communities for 2017 through 2019.”

Ms Gordon has launched similar initiatives around the island, including the Fentons Drive and Rambling Lane areas of Pembroke where certain vulnerable members of the community reside. She is also reaching out to various youth clubs and organisations around the island, attracting community members who could be considered vulnerable for their own specific reasons.

Ms Gordon added: “We want to get as many people as possible to get themselves properly trained in certain areas so the community is at a level to be able to do basic things for themselves. We also are training a number of community members as site social responders, so if something happens in the community, you have the various organisations.

“Setting up such a programme within a vulnerable community is never a straightforward task. First, a vulnerable community needs to be identified as such before contact is made. Then a degree of trust is carefully built with the help of existing organisations such as the Bermuda Police Service. To run the programme effectively there also needs to be a degree of buy-in and commitment from a number of those involved.”

Bermuda Red Cross was initially faced with “a degree of scepticism” at Dr Cann Park but made some inroads through some small, yet important, breakthroughs, including the installation of outdoor lighting in the area and better trash collection.

PC Bridgeman said: “Going forward, we would like to get more on board. Are they prepared? Do they have an evacuation plan if something happens? A lot of people take these things for granted.”

Asked how the seniors in the area responded to the 12-week exercise, Ms Bridgeman added: “They were really elated — we had our activists who are always there and willing.

“The response was overwhelming — they really expressed how elated they were to be exposed to something like that. It is amazing. I have a soft spot in my heart for young people and seniors because I see them as very vulnerable.

“You can do a lot with little and people are empowered.”

For more information about the programme e-mail disaster@bermudaredcross.com or call 236-8253 [ext 231].