SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Over the last two weeks, Mr. Jacob “Sjaak” Seen, Multidisciplinary Operational Team Leader of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team facilitated a concentrated two-week Disaster Response Course for K1’s Disaster Relief and Crisis Team (DIRECT).
Over 40 participants including persons of K1 DIRECT Curacao, K1 DIRECT St. Maarten, Windward Islands Emergency Medical Services (Wiems), Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard, members of the Fire Department, and Emergency Support Function 7 (ESF7) have now completed the training, having gained the skills and knowledge needed to effectively administer relief in the wake of a disaster.
In 2017, Hurricane Irma devastated the island of St. Maarten and K1 Britannia Foundation played a key role in first response, mass distribution and other forms of relief and aid. Sjaak came to the island via UNDAC to support the Government of St. Maarten with disaster coordination during that time and formed a bond with K1. This bond developed over time, which enabled him to come back and donate his time to share his expertise with K1 DIRECT and other local organizations who play key roles in disaster relief.
The trainings took place at the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) and the Government Administration Building over the course of 12 days at no cost to the foundation. Sjaak provided essential trainings for the participants on the topics of Principles of Humanitarian Aid, Humanitarian Mission Cycle, Search & Rescue, Crisis Management, Information Management, Reception & Departure Centers and Emergency Logistics. These elements were all broken down into step by step procedures of a complete mission cycle pertinent to an affected population. K1 DIRECT also visited the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) for a site visit as part of the trainings.
Iris Hakkens, K1 DIRECT Program Manager mentioned, “Sjaak is doing more than just lecturing, he is a mentor to K1 DIRECT. He is volunteering his time and donating his services not only to prepare our team, but also to advise us as management. When we’re not in sessions, Sjaak is reviewing our Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s), our Memorandums of Understanding (MOU’s), etc. This period with him here has helped us make great strides in the further development of K1 Direct.”
Roxanne Howell - Financial Controller of the Ministry of VSA/ ESF7 Office Coordinator stated, “The ministry welcomes the initiative of K1, one of the partners of ESF 7, as it addresses important issues and will strengthen our collaboration efforts and ensures that together we can become more resilient.” K1 DIRECT has committed to specific predetermined roles under ESF7 within the disaster management structure of the Government of St. Maarten.
Sjaak has a reputable background in global humanitarian aid, prior to his position at UNDAC, he worked with Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) in The Netherlands, among others. His background has allowed him to tie real-world experiences into methodology while stressing the importance of group work.
The trainings have allowed the participants to gain a well-rounded view of disaster preparation and coordination. Joanna Rijnboutt of WIEMS elaborated, “I learned a lot about the importance of coordination, cooperation and organization in disaster relief and humanitarian aid. Most importantly, we received the tools on how that can be achieved. The classes were interactive, and gave on-point information; very grateful to K1 and Mr. Sjaak Seen.”
Alan Schet, Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard Officer added, “As service/law enforcement personnel, we understand the importance of coordination, logistics and management. This course covered alot of topics that gave us a different perspective of how working together can be implemented effectively and efficiently. Therefore we would like to thank K1 for hosting this course and Mr. Jacob Seen for educating us with the above mentioned topics.”
Sjaak added, “The information I shared is a good start to build resilience, but disaster crisis preparation is a continuous process of working hard to be adequately equipped. It’s important to be vigilant at all the times, and it’s necessary to especially be prepared in the areas of your reception and departure centers, such as the airport.”
Next steps for K1 DIRECT is to deepen knowledge in the areas Sjaak has highlighted throughout the training, especially in fields which are relevant to K1’s predetermined roles with ESF 7. Co-Founder Priya Thirumur said, “Since we have set up K1 DIRECT, we have put an intense emphasis on trainings and preparations – using Irma as a reference point of what would be needed in terms of trained manpower, supplies and procedures to be effective in a disaster of that magnitude in the future. K1 DIRECT was set up in response to the needs K1 Britannia Foundation faced on the island after Irma. All emergency organizations who have gone through Irma have a great reference tool to be able to be effectively prepared going forward. Preparation is key, and cannot be over-emphasized.”
K1 DIRECT’s founding sponsors, who help to make training courses such as this possible, are Carnival Cruise Line and the Dutch Disaster Fund.
K1 DIRECT would also like to thank Shieka’s Bistro, Freegan Food Café, PJIA, Simpson Bay Suites, AUC, Government of St. Maarten and especially Sjaak for all efforts and contributions made in making this training possible.
Group photo at the Fire Department at PJIA after the site visit.