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At the ready

by Latoya Burnham

Busy volunteers at the job.

Tonight, when thousands of eyes are trained heavenward watching for the telltale fireworks at midnight, three sets of Roving Response Teams will be deployed and alert should they be needed.

It’s the kind of response that can easily run the team into the tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, only a bit of it being supplied outside their own pockets.

For the Roving Response members, tonight will be the conclusion of a busy year and one in which they would have provided services at everything from oil spills, to serious accidents, fires and even fallen trees across major roads.

On December 27, team member Ricardo Patrick was the first on the scene of a blocked road in Fisher Pond, St. Thomas, where power lines were also down.

Patrick told Barbados TODAY that on reaching the scene he surveyed the damage, realised that pedestrians were walking around a fallen tree where the lines were. He then proceeded to clear a path beneath the large trunk that was still high and solid enough for people to pass under safely so as to avoid the lines.

Roving Response Team clearing St. Thomas road.

The response member explained that situations like this were common in the job, where the 40 or so members of the team were all volunteers.

One of the biggest challenges they had going forward though, confessed treasurer of the group, Selwyn Brooks, was finding new ways to finance their operations.

Patrick had explained that it was not uncommon for the group to bring in equipment to be dispersed and the team members pay part of the expense.

Brooks said there were two ways of looking at it – the first was that some of the guys were self-employed and financed the majority of the outfitting; the second was that they were trying to set up a consultancy so their training skills and services could also be offered for sale to businesses.

“We get a subvention from Government of $10,000 but that is a drop in the sea compared to what we really spend. It is not that we are not appreciative because every bit helps,” said Brooks.

“There isn’t very much we can do unless you can get people who will pay for our skills. That is why I am trying to set up a consultancy that can help to do emergency planning,” said the treasurer.

He said compared to the $10,000 subvention, their last annual report indicated that they spent about $50,000 last year on resources alone, which did not take into account some of the equipment and other stuff team members bought on their own.

Sums like that are spent on saws, purchasing and maintenance of them as is often required to maintaim their good condition; gear, training, and other areas, he said.

“Take for example the equipment that I require to be able to move around prepared is like $15,000 to $20,000 and that is what I need to respond on a daily basis. Everyone may not be able to afford that but this is the way we give back to the community,” said Brooks, who is qualified in the handling of hazardous materials.

The treasurer said that they were hoping for more corporate sponsorship in the new year and it would be one of the things examined when the group meets early in 2013.

“We welcome the idea if corporate Barbados wants to get involved. If we can get the guys vouchers for gas perhaps, like a full tank per month, that would help. The guys are on call all hours and have to move with one call, so that is a lot they have to do on their own,” he noted.

So tonight while thousands are partying, the team will be roving. When party-goers head for their beds, team members will be hoping that the roads remain accident free so at least they can ring in the new year happy without responding to any casualty.

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