Barbados hit by virtual disaster
Local and regional agencies respond to worst-case scenario at Exercise Tradewinds 2012.
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Wednesday June 27, 2012 – Barbados was just hit by a tsunami in the midst of dealing with a terrorist hostage situation, a collapsed stadium and a bombing that damaged an oil tanker causing an oil spill into Carlisle Bay, all while preparing for the impending threat of a hurricane.
Fortunately, none of this happened, but it was the scenario that the agencies and nations involved in the Command Post Exercise (CPX) of Exercise Tradewinds 2012 had to resolve in the recently concluded five-day training event.
Tradewinds 2012 was an interagency, multinational exercise designed to enhance the collective abilities of Caribbean defense forces and disaster management agencies to counter transnational organized crime, provide disaster relief and humanitarian aid.
Now in its 28th year, Tradewinds was hosted by Barbados and involved the participation of 14 other nations from the region: Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. In addition, the United States and Canada facilitated and conducted the training involved in the exercise.
Tradewinds consisted of practical ground forces training, practical maritime training and the virtual CPX.
The CPX was arguably the most important part of the event this year because it augmented the partnerships between the participating partner nations.
The goal of this year’s training was to maximize and optimize the interoperability of the Regional Security System (RSS) coming into Barbados as if an event happened here, said Major Carlos Davila, exercise plans officer with Marine Forces South and Chief Controller of the CPX.
The exercise has been successful in serving to shed some light on areas that need to be re-worked in order to make the effort more efficient in the future, said Major Davila.
“It gives us a chance to see where we can coordinate our response better to disaster relief or criminal activity,” said Carl Williams, Royal Barbados Police Force community officer and a training conductor in the CPX.
The importance of the exercise can only be measured in a time of crisis when it is critical to have maximum cooperation between the nations of the region and the respective agencies that would respond in order to augment the safety and security of the affected area.
Barbadians were placed in the decision-making roles in order for them to gain the maximum benefit of the exercise here in their home nation.
“We placed partner nations in staff positions to support Barbados in command positions because they would normally head the operation here anyway,” said Major Davila.
One particular focus of the CPX was how the region responds to disaster relief and humanitarian aid. This was especially important to stress in a geographical location frequently threatened by hurricanes.
“The exercise is well on its way to achieving the stated objectives,” said Robert Harewood, program officer at the Department of Emergency Management and a training conductor in the CPX.
The objectives were fully encompassing and focused on aspects that aren’t normally practiced.
“We are testing strategic planning in order to put procedures in place to fix the problems,” said Harewood. “We have been working on scenarios for about six months.”
While the training event lacked the stress of real-world tragedy, the requirement for a quick response to a disaster scenario created its own pressure.
“We’re pushing the envelope to the actual breaking point in order to measure our response and identify what opportunities we have for improvement,” said Harewood.
It took the cooperation and diligence of many agencies just to plan something of this magnitude.
“A whole host of agencies sit around a table and basically discuss the challenges and come up with solutions to those challenges,” said Harewood.
Tradewinds 2012 provided the opportunity for interagency and international training between partner nations. This developed and maintained participating regional civil and maritime services’ capabilities to respond to a variety of missions while exercising vital information sharing and coordinating lines of communication between exercise participants.