On Friday, September 4th, 1998, The Ambergris Caye Emergency Service (A.C.E.S.) team held a mock disaster drill at Mar de Tumbo.
The mock disaster drill involved a drowning simulation involving the San Pedro Fire Department and Police Department. This was a part of the Emergency Medical Service that is currently being established on the island, now called the Ambergris Caye Emergency Service. Steve Hammer, Director, and Dan Morris, assistant, were the organizers of the drill and also the drowning victims. The drill was prepared to assess the state of preparedness of the police and fire department. It tested the departments' response time, mobilization and transportation. They used the Customs Department's boat to transport the "victims" to the airstrip. They have scheduled a drill every month to keep improving their service.
The goal of the A.C.E.S. is to develop a fully functional and community integrated program for the town of San Pedro, with support of all Ambergris Caye. The program will teach the fire and police departments, dive masters and the residents of San Pedro basic first aid and CPR training, so that there is a greater chance of someone surviving a heart attack, medical emergency or trauma related injury. Secondly, they will train the current medical personnel in the latest techniques in emergency medicine and reaffirm current medical training in CPR and other areas of emergency medicine.
Every Wednesday night at 6:30, Steve and Dan will be at the fire station providing medical training to the firefighters. This will greatly improve the service of the fire department. The firefighters will be trained in basic, primary patient survey and immobilization techniques that will enable them to take care of a patient in the event of an accident, until a doctor gets to the scene. Another service that is in the planning stage is an open communications line among the police, fire department, all resident doctors, Wings of Hope and the A.C.E.S. The police department has agreed to monitor an open channel for communication besides their own private channel. If a 911 call is received at the police station, everybody on the channel will get to know what is going on. The doctors will be aware of what is happening and get prepared.
"One of the things that we see here is that the doctors are overworked," said Steve. "Many times the doctors are summoned to a scene where a patient only has minor flesh wounds and no serious injury. The doctors are preoccupied with petty stuff when they could be attending more important matters. By training the firemen and the police, they can administer help and the doctors can be called in only if needed. They will be trained to recognize life threatening situations and respond properly."
At this point they are defining the role of the fire department and working on a setup for the police. The program will also reach the schools to educate the children that calling 911 is not only for robberies, fires and big accidents, but also for small accidents or information that can help the police or fire department.
The Ambergris Caye Emergency Service has already begun servicing the island, but a lot more is needed for it to be a fully organized and functional program. Proper transportation for fast and effective time response is needed. At the moment, they have a golf cart which was donated by Mr. Oreo and the police department, but a golf cart is too small and slow to deliver proper service. It is still very useful and appreciated, though. Also, much more medical equipment is needed to keep the program working. Already Mr. Hammer has visited a hospital in the United States and has brought nine crates of equipment back, many of which are not available on the island and are very expensive. He has prepared individual kits with all the medical supplies needed for a specific incident. This is the primary goal of the A.C.E.S. program: to drastically increase the response time to a medical emergency.
"We can be on sight in a matter of five to ten minutes and if needed, transport a patient to Belize City in a matter of 30 minutes," said Steve. "We need this efficient service on the island."
A.C.E.S. is asking the community of San Pedro for any help that they can offer to the program, from monetary donations, to supplies and services. This is a service that will highly benefit the island; any help that you can contribute will be highly appreciated.
Steve Hammer and Dan Morris would also like to thank the following people for their continuing support and donations to the program: Mayor Alberto Nuñez, Ruben Gonzales, Assistant Superintendent of Police Rodolfo Oreo, the Fire Department, Wings of Hope, the Administration of St. Matthews University and all the medical students who are offering their help, Dr. Solorzano, Dr. Perera, Dr. Otto Rodriguez and the rest of the medical community.
A.C.E.S. has also organized a few fund raising events that will go towards further developing the service. On September 25th, the Lions Club will hold a benefit Bar-B-Que Dinner. A plate of food will go for $7 and A.C.E.S. will be holding a CPR class that night. Rasta Pasta will be holding a benefit dinner for A.C.E.S on October 3rd, at $20 a plate. A.C.E.S. will also be selling pastries at the San Pedro High School and a few students have agreed to help go out to collect donations.
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