PHILIPSBURG – K1 Britannia Foundation commemorates the one-year anniversary of K1 DIRECT, Disaster Relief & Crisis Team, since its launch back on September 6th, 2018. Since then, K1 DIRECT has been partnering with local, regional and international disaster relief initiatives and organizations, and has grown to a team of over 40 volunteer members, based on St. Maarten and in Curacao.
K1 DIRECT has been diligently training in various fields of disaster management to assist the disaster relief structure of St. Maarten and other islands through their main tasks of shelter management, first response, and distribution management in the region, amongst others.
Following the destruction brought about by Hurricane Irma in 2017, K1 Britannia Foundation played an active role in disaster relief assisting the local community with mass distributions and shelter management, while working closely with military and law workforces on St. Maarten, and then again assisted in humanitarian response on Dominica after Hurricane Maria.
K1 identified a need for trained and equipped responders immediately before, during and after a disaster, and acknowledged a way that they could play a long-term role within the disaster relief structure. In 2018, a year since the passing of Irma, K1 DIRECT – Disaster Relief and Crisis team – was launched to assist with that need.
K1 DIRECT has pre-determined roles with these three tasks, of shelter management, first response, and distribution management and is working closely with St. Maarten Government Emergency Support Function 7 (ESF7) to make the necessary preparations to continue to effectively fill this role. The necessary preparations include a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to specify clear roles and key areas in which K1 DIRECT will assist.
Carnival Cruise Line has also partnered with K1 DIRECT, as the founding sponsor, to support the team as a partner for disaster relief, because their affiliation to Caribbean region, and empathy to those who were affected by the 2017 hurricane season. The team is currently comprised of two teams, one on St. Maarten and one on Curacao.
Each team holds approximately 20 insured volunteers that have been vetted, and selected based on their interest, expertise and commitment to disaster relief. The decision to develop a branch in Curacao stemmed from reasons including the strategic location of Curacao outside of the hurricane belt and its social connection to St. Maarten.
K1 DIRECT has the necessary supplies, and equipment that would ensure the team has the capacity & resources to be mobilized after a disaster. Albert Pardo, Curacao K1 DIRECT volunteer member, mentioned, “The value K1 DIRECT brings to the disaster relief field ensures rapid and effective response to emergencies and crises through temporary and honest assistance immediately after a disaster strikes.”
Within this year, Jacob “Sjaak” Seen, Multidisciplinary Operational Team Leader of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team, facilitated a concentrated Disaster Response Course for K1 DIRECT, where more than 40 participants including the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard, the Fire Department, and Emergency Support Function 7 (ESF7) were invited to participate, as K1 believes “knowledge is one of the most valuable resources to share” as put by DIRECT Program Manager, Iris Hakkens. Mr. Seen is a key partner and mentor of K1 DIRECT. K1 DIRECT also partnered with the Government of St. Maarten to facilitate a four-day End-2- End Supply Chain Management Training which was hosted and organized by World Food Programme (WFP) and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).
The training brought together valuable partners in disaster and supply chain management, where organizations had the opportunity to present their disaster response capabilities, participate in supply chain, logistics and inventory management activities, and discuss collaboration and long-term agreements.
Throughout the year, K1 DIRECT has also facilitated several trainings for their team including fire safety and psychosocial support in disasters as well as medical trainings. The St. Maarten & Curacao members are certified with American Heart Association’s Heartsaver First Aid/CPR/AED qualification and a select number are also certified as Emergency Medical Responders.
Volunteers are also being vaccinated with relevant immunizations to prevent illness while traveling to catastrophic and vulnerable areas. K1 DIRECT, under the management of Program Managers Priya Thirumur, Iris Hakkens, and Alan Schet, has been working diligently to strengthen connections and partnerships with key humanitarian organizations within the region.
Hakkens elaborated, “Over the last year, the knowledge and practices gained through managing groups of people, managing partnerships and expectations, and participating in trainings have been pivotal in strengthening my confidence in our team.” Schet added, “Since K1 DIRECT’s inception, I also have noticed the trust and credibility we’ve gained. The fact that we are seen as a dependable organization and team, is a positive step we’ve realized.”
K1 DIRECT also attended the UR Caribbean Conference in Barbados, which brought together over 500 representatives in disaster risk reduction, where Thirumur participated in a panel on disaster communications. The conference served as a point to connect with governments of different countries and international organizations such as World Food Programme (WFP) and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
Thirumur also attended the 2019 Caribbean Disaster Response Planning Conference hosted by Global Support & Development and IGY Marinas while continuously striving to connect to international organizations to fill needs in the region. Over the last few months, the management team has determinedly made contact and aims to maintain good communication with local and regional partners such as St. Maarten Tourism Bureau, Fire Department, Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard, Tropical Shipping, Windward Roads, SJIS, UNICEF, EOC, Dutch Marines, Royal Marechaussee, and various ESFs, amongst others, to discuss avenues of collaboration and partnership.
Important dialogues between government officials of over ten countries in the region have also taken place to develop relationships to effectively assist during times of a disaster. “K1 DIRECT’s current role and the role it will play for many years to come, is one of the beautiful things out of the difficult experience that Irma was.
K1 Britannia Foundation has always endeavoured to foster out of the box solutions to meet evolving needs, and this is what led to the creation of K1 DIRECT. Another principal that this program is built on, is collaboration and strengthening communities through meaningful partnerships. Looking back at this year, we are very grateful for all those who have played a part in its creation and we look forward to be able to continue to serve the region for many years to come,” heartfully concluded K1 Co-founder Thirumur.
K1 would like to extend their gratitude and appreciation to partners that helped with the growth and expansion of the team. K1 would also like to acknowledge Carnival Cruise Line and the Nationaal Rampenfonds (NRF) for their sponsorship that led to the establishment of K1 DIRECT.
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Volunteers listening attentively to Jacob Sjaak Seen during day 1 of K1 Direct Disaster Response Course.
Group photo at the Fire Department at PJIA after the site visit during a prior training.