CDC equips Berbice high school to handle fire disasters

Georgetown, Guyana — (March 19, 2018) The Civil Defense Commission (CDC), through a partnership with the United Nations’ Education Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), handed over more than 30 pieces of fire safety equipment to the Vryman’s Erven Secondary School in New Amsterdam, Berbice, as part of the UNESCO-funded USD$15000 Youth Engagement for Community-Based Disaster Risk Management Project, which was launched in January of this year. The handing over ceremony took place on Friday morning during an all-school assembly and was followed by a fire safety demonstration.

Headteacher of the Vryman Erven Secondary School, Mr. Graham Thomas, Major Sean Welcome, Ms. Tonya France and Volunteers at UNESCO, Mr. Kenrick Morgan and Mr. Hunter Stafford pose with the donated equipment and the students who completed a disaster preparedness capacity-building workshop.

The project targets youth involvement in disaster preparedness through sensitisation workshops where students learn about hygiene and hazards during a natural disaster. The items donated included two five-pound carbon dioxide fire extinguishers, six 10-pound chemical powder extinguishers, one first aid kit, seven fire buckets, one procedure poster, one beneficiary sign, one assembly point sign, and 22 additional signs to map out an evacuation route in case of a disaster. Preparedness and Response Manager for the CDC, Major Sean Welcome thanked UNESCO for helping the CDC fulfil its obligation to the citizens of Guyana.

“I would like to express gratitude to UNESCO for providing the much needed assistance in making this project a reality and in helping the Civil Defence Commission to achieve its mandate of making Guyana and Guyanese a more resilient nation and people, more resilient to the impacts of hazards and the ensuing disasters that follow,” he said.

Technical Officer at the Guyana National Commission for UNESCO, Ms. Tonya France said that UNESCO is eager to have young people become more actively engaged in proactive disaster preparedness as opposed to having a reactive approach. “This project not only contributes to a timely engagement on disaster prevention… preparedness, and… risk reduction and mitigation, but also provides an incubator for the meeting of young minds towards promoting [and] building of disaster resilience communities… UNESCO is committed to assisting countries build their capacities in managing disaster and climate risk [and]… is engaged in the conceptual shift in thinking away from post-disaster reaction and towards pre-disaster action,” she said.

Head Teacher of the Vryman’s Erven Secondary School, Mr. Graham Thomas spoke on the importance of learning practical skills, like disaster preparedness, alongside academic skills. “We should take it as an honour… At school we have to learn so much, not only our academics, but we should also know of things that might be life threatening… Natural disasters are life threatening and we must have information as to what to do in case disaster strikes…. We ought to put measures in place to prevent or to avoid disasters,” he said.

In an invited comment, Mr. Thomas also thanked the CDC and UNESCO for the fire safety equipment and pledged to put into practice the information and skills learned during the tutorial.

Form Two student, Ms. Jessica Jafer plans to share the information she learned with friends and family. “I plan to share it with other friends and family… if something happens to the school, I might be able to help… If it’s a fire… [with] the fire extinguisher… I can help [out] the fire,” she said.

This Disaster Risk Management Project is a pilot initiative of the CDC and UNESCO that benefits three schools in three regions across Guyana. St. Cuthbert’s Secondary School, Demerara-Mahaica (Region Four) and St. Ignatius Secondary School, Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo (Region Nine) are the other beneficiaries.

Section Leader, Mr. Ray Hosannah of the New Amsterdam Fire Station leads a fire safety demonstration with some of the teachers and students of Vryman Erven Secondary School.

Major Sean Welcome of the Civil Defence Commission addressing the students of Vryman Erven Secondary School before handing over fire safety equipment as part of the Youth Engagement for Community-Based disaster Risk Management Project.


Section Leader Hosannah and Operations Officer, Mr. Clive McDonald guide this student in the proper technique for spraying the fire extinguisher.

Technical Officer at the United Nation’s Education Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Ms. Tonya France delivers brief remarks at the handover ceremony.