December 21, 2003
Big up the rescue team
I am writing to give thanks and call attention to the good work and professionalism of the Caves Branch Cave Rescue Team. Last week the Caves Branch Rescue Team responded to a call for assistance in the search and rescue of four persons who lost their way in the jungle. Within one hour after being notified by phone to Caves Branch, a male and female team of 12 trained Belizean Volunteer Rescue Team members arrived on the scene to take the lead in planning, coordinating and implementing what would become a 20-hour effort to search for, locate and rescue these four lost persons.
The Volunteer Rescue Team was very mature and disciplined in their handling of this situation and acted very professional in their emergency response methods. The Team members were very well equipped with jungle survival gear, caving and technical climbing equipment, communication equipment and local knowledge of the wilderness environment.
Once the Team had established a base camp at the last known location of the lost persons, they formulated a search plan and delegated responsibilities among the Team members. One of the lost persons was known to have a medical condition and each search team was assisted by emergency medical responder training. When the lost persons were located, proper medical care was given and all four persons were able to walk out of the jungle under their own power with assistance and guidance of the rescuers. Needless to say, friends and family members of the recovered persons were ecstatic and relieved from the good news of them being found in good physical and emotional conditions. This is due to the good will and exemplar efforts of the Caves Branch Cave Rescue Team.
The Caves Branch Cave Rescue Team members are professional guides - the best in Central America - who make their living from adventure tourism at Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge. It is with great respect for Ian and these 12 men and women who responded first - as volunteers - that I write to you. This rescue team was initiated by Ian Anderson and Caves Branch 6 years ago, funded privately in support of his adventure tourism operation. Members of the team have volunteered many hundred hours of training over the years.
This most recent rescue is only one of many rescues they have been called upon to save lives. In addition, this same team responded to San Pedro during Hurricane Keith in 2000 and to Toledo during Hurricane Iris in 2001, in both cases providing medical, rescue and relief operations for weeks at a time. They deserve recognition and support at a national level for their selfless efforts and for the resource that they represent in emergency response. I can think of no better qualified emergency response team in Belize who is more capable and effective in handling this and similar situations.
On behalf of the lost persons and their family members, I thank each of you for your valiant efforts. You have succeeded again in saving lives and preventing disaster. And in doing so heightened our awareness of the value of your efforts to train, invest and develop an emergency response resource that is first rate and invaluable. I salute each of you and trust that your efforts, now and in the future, will be recognized nationally and appreciated long into the future.
Matthew Miller http://www.belizetimes.bz/outspoken.shtml