The earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010 left the country with a multitude of problems and needs. An estimated 300,000 people were killed; buildings were damaged or destroyed; at least a million people were left homeless and relocated to hastily constructed camps; the communications and transportation infrastructures were disrupted; and it was often unclear who was in charge of rescue and aid efforts. Delays in delivering aid led to great human suffering and sporadic violence.
Throughout the response, there was no local ability to provide true rescue services or coordinated firefighting, and the earthquake put a spotlight on this absence of emergency response capability—specifically the lack of national fire and emergency medical service (EMS) resources capable of providing rapid response, critical care, and other key services.
As part of the international effort to rebuild the Haitian government’s capacity and to protect its citizens from future disasters, the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), through its Humanitarian Assistance Program in its Civil Military Assistance Division, became a player in efforts to help Haiti’s Public Security Department address public safety and response. SOUTHCOM, based in Miami, is one of nine unified Combatant Commands in the Department of Defense, responsible for providing contingency planning, operations, and security cooperation for nations in Central and South America and the Caribbean.
In the earthquake’s aftermath, a network of fire/EMS stations is being constructed in ten cities (Port Au Prince, Cap Haitian, Hinche, Gonaives, Jacmel, Jeremie, Les Cayes, Miragoane, Ft. Liberté, and Port-de-Paix). The project is coordinated by the U.S. Military Liaison Office in Haiti. Each of these stations will need an organizational framework, operating procedures, and trained staff with sufficient equipment to do their jobs.
SOUTHCOM has selected ICMA to develop a plan for these emerging organizations. ICMA will deploy a senior training specialist to Haiti to assist in establishing a fully functional fire/emergency response operation in the country. During this four-month program, ICMA will undertake the following activities and deliver results in both English and French:
- Identify or modify an organizational framework and standard operating procedures for the network of stations
- Assess the hazards that threaten each new station so that they can be incorporated into training and equipment recommendations
- Design a program of instruction for fire/EMS personnel, covering leadership, organization, basic firefighting, emergency medical services, and incident command
- Develop a prioritized list of the furnishings, communications equipment, firefighting and emergency medical response equipment, and personal protective gear that each fire/EMS station needs to become operational in the short term
- Seek out potential sources of refurbished fire trucks and ambulances for the new stations.
To carry out the program, ICMA will coordinate with the Haiti Public Security Department and others involved to ensure that its work complements initiatives already in place.
Training will be conducted by Chief Karls Paul-Noël, an experienced practitioner, trainer, and instructor of Haitian ancestry who is familiar with the status of disaster preparedness in the country. He has been a member of the Urban Search and Rescue team of the Miami-Dade (Florida) Fire Rescue Department since 1987 and has responded to disasters worldwide, including earthquakes in Haiti and Turkey, floods in Mozambique, and numerous hurricanes in the Caribbean. Gael Painson, a Haitian fire/EMS specialist, will facilitate the assessments and provide input into the program based on his extensive local knowledge.
In addressing the fire/EMS system in Haiti, ICMA builds on a successful project in Paraguay, where ICMA assessed the incident command structure and equipment within a network of loosely affiliated volunteer firefighter companies and provided training and simulation exercises for their personnel.
To learn more about ICMA’s projects around the world, visit the ICMA International website and the International Development topic area of the Knowledge Network, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.