K1 Britannia Foundation launches its disaster relief and crisis team | THE DAILY HERALD

PHILIPSBURG–K1 Britannia Foundation has launched a disaster relief and crisis team to expand its focus on disaster relief work.

The foundation contacted persons within its volunteer database who had shown interest in disaster relief work and began developing a Disaster Relief and Crisis Team called K1 DIRECT.

K1 Project Manager Iris Hakkens said it is not the foundation’s intention to duplicate efforts, but to fill specific needs that became apparent after Hurricane Irma, which hit the island a year ago today. “Over the last several months, we have been meeting with key individuals and entities in this field, including several of St. Maarten’s emergency support functions (ESFs), local organisations catering to vulnerable people and international relief organisations whom we have worked with after Irma to assess what is still needed to be better prepared in case of future disasters.”

Based on the evaluations and agreements, K1 Britannia is working with ESF7 to identify three main areas in which K1 DIRECT will be committed to play a long-term role in St. Maarten. Because of the numerous projects the foundation executes through its volunteer programme, it has formed relationships with several institutions, such as White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation, foster homes, Mental Health Foundation and Safe Haven, amongst others, K1 said in a press release on Monday

As K1 DIRECT had been involved in disaster response after Irma, it became apparent the team would continue to play this role of first response and rapid assessments within the first 72 hours post-disaster.

Working alongside key partners, K1 DIRECT has been tasked with coordinating several aspects of the inventory, packaging, coordination, and distribution of relief goods allocated to Dutch St. Maarten, the release said. The foundation’s volunteers will also play a key role in emergency shelters for the crucial 72 hours that they are open, assisting with logistical and management tasks such as registration of individuals and general supervision to ensure that shelter regulations are adhered to, etc.

K1 DIRECT has pre-determined roles with these three tasks and is working with Emergency Support Function ESF7 to make the necessary preparations. However, due to the unpredictable nature of disasters, K1 DIRECT has met with several of the ESFs and will partner with them to assist in other ways depending on the need and situation.
“The Coast Guard played a crucial role in all of our disaster relief work post-Irma and we are looking forward to continuing to work with them for many years to come,” K1 Vice President Priya Thirumur said.

To carry out these tasks, K1 identified that it needed to recruit a team of 20-plus volunteers focused on disaster relief, all equipped with the necessary training and tools to execute these tasks.

“This is how the concept of K1 DIRECT was formed – through a combination of identifying the need and thinking outside the box to effectively solve it,” the release said.
“The advantage that we have as an island having gone through Irma is that we have a very clear idea of what the gaps are, what we need to be prepared for and how to execute a plan. It’s imperative to use this period post-Irma to effectively prepare in advance for any future disasters. Not using this experience as a steppingstone for growth as a country and as accountable organisations would be a real shame,” Thirumur added.

“Carnival Cruise Line reached out to us to become a long-term partner for disaster relief. Because of its heart for those in the Caribbean region who were affected by the 2017 hurricane season, the cruise line found it imperative to play a meaningful part in not only the recovery but also preparation.”

K1 DIRECT members have started and will continue to undergo training.
“There are a variety of skills needed to execute these tasks. Shelter management, for instance, entails not only knowing how to properly register individuals, but also being able to manage people in distress. How do you handle the situation if someone in the shelter has a panic attack? How do you handle an electrical fire?

“Holland America Line has adopted the search-and-rescue and shelter-management aspects of K1 DIRECT, enabling us to train volunteers and secure the necessary equipment for these aspects,” said project manager Alan Schet.

Trainings such as cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), automated external defibrillator (AED) usage, first aid, basic fire safety, and emergency medical responder (EMR) have already been completed or are currently underway. Volunteers will also undergo training in search and rescue, psychological first aid and various humanitarian courses regionally and internationally.

“The goal is to establish a team of 20-plus core members who will go through basic training in all fields,” said Schet. “Based on individual interests, skills and leadership potential, a few will be selected to advance in specific fields. For instance, all core members will be trained in CPR/AED/first aid; eight persons will do the EMR course, and four will advance to EMT [emergency medical technician – Ed.].”

The purpose of this is that, should the group be split into units, each team will have a member who is advanced in a different field and is able to take the lead when this expertise is needed.

K1 is currently also developing a branch of K1 DIRECT in Curaçao. K1 DIRECT will train volunteers on other islands within the Dutch Kingdom who can be mobilised. As the probability of a hurricane affecting Curaçao is smaller, K1 decided to base its second team there. Winair has been a key partner in this effort, committing to assist as much as possible with flights for volunteers immediately before an impending disaster.

“Because one of the core ethics of K1 DIRECT is providing dependable assistance and to continue to be an organisation that government and the island can depend on to execute specific tasks, we had to consider the possibility that our volunteers here could be affected by a disaster and that we needed to create a contingency plan.

“Thus came the idea to form an additional team – having the same qualifications and expertise as the team in St Maarten – on another island that will be brought in when necessary. This could also be helpful if the need becomes more than our core team here can manage,” Thirumur said.

K1 also met with the disaster management teams of Dominica and the British Virgin Islands to discuss how it can be a part of their disaster relief structural planning. For all its relief activities in the region, K1 Direct will be partnering with Rapid Response Team from Switzerland, having now become their official partner for disaster relief in the Caribbean region. The plan is to fly into these countries immediately before an impending hurricane to be on-ground to provide assistance during and immediately after a disaster.
“These islands, just like St. Maarten, are vulnerable after the 2017 hurricane season,” explained Thirumur.

K1 DIRECT aims to expand its partnerships with more countries in the region in the coming years with the help of sponsors.

To learn more about K1 DIRECT and how to become part of the team or assist, contact K1 Britannia Foundation via its Facebook page, or its website
www.k1britanniafoundation.org .

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/80332-k1-britannia-foundation-launches-its-disaster-relief-and-crisis-team