The safety of tourists and other visitors who frequent Belize's archaeological sites is of utmost importance to stakeholders in the industry.� While there have been various opportunities for tour guides to train in CPR and swift water cave rescue, there hasn't been a standard curriculum that sets the guidelines across the board.� Today, however, as part of the Making Tourism Benefit Communities Adjacent to Archaeological Sites initiative, the first intake of park rangers and guides graduated as certified first responders.� News Five's Isani Cayetano was at this afternoon's commencement.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A cohort of thirty-eight tour guides and park rangers were certified today in Swift Water Cave Rescue and CPR, following a series of training sessions under the Making Tourism Benefit Communities Adjacent to Archaeological Sites project.� The idea of the initiative, according to Dr. Geraldo Flowers, is to ensure that visitors to archaeological sites, including Nohoch Che'en or Caves Branch and Barton Creek, have the safest and most enjoyable experiences at these locations.

Geraldo Flowers

Dr. Geraldo Flowers, Policy Coordinator, MTBCAAS Project

"What happened today was the culmination of two weeks of training that was sponsored by the Belize Tourism [Industry] Association, the National Institute of Culture and Industry and that was funded by the European Union and the Government of Belize and involves swift water and first rescue response training, swift water, first aid and crew management training for tour guides and rangers that operate at cave sites. Individuals who take visitors on cave-tubing and other activities that involves water-based activities and this training enables them to be able to act as a first responder in case somebody at one of these sites, a visitor, gets hurt and needs medical attention and needs to be evacuated from where they are to a point where an emergency entity such as BERT would be able to facilitate them and take them to a hospital."

Cave-tubing is a water-based activity that has been closely associated with the tourism industry for over a decade.� Every year thousands of visitors descend on Nohoch Che'en where guides take them on a tour through ancient cavern systems.� The safety of guests along these meandering waterways is paramount.

Dr. Geraldo Flowers

"These individuals, thirty-eight of them in all, in which about forty percent of them were females participated in four days of training that included both day and night and that involved crew rescue management, first aid and CPR, as well as cave-rescue training."

Isani Cayetano

"Now cave-tubing is an activity that has been around for quite a while with regards to the tourism industry.� Is this the first such initiative to train guides and other people who are involved in the recreation of cave-tubing?"

Dr. Geraldo Flowers

"No.� Entities such as BDART� and others have been doing training such as this for a couple of years.� What the Belize Tourism Board and the National Institute of Culture and History have done with this project is to standardize and regularize that training so that now we have a standard curriculum, we have standard certification so that anybody who operates a cave: a tour guide or a ranger who operates at one of these caves has to undergo a specific type of training for them to be able to be certified to operate at these caves."

The learning material that was presented in the course is aimed at covering the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for rescuers to operate effectively using the fundamentals of survival in moving water. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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