British Group Study Exchange team prepared for any emergency
“We all have the same goal: to make the world a better and safer place for everyone,” says disaster management student David Cowley of the work performed by emergency service personnel around the world.
To help reach this objective, Cowley and four emergency management professionals from England traveled as a Group Study Exchange team to Chicago to learn how other cities prepare for and respond to crises. The so-called UK2USA exchange marked the second half of the GSE between RI districts 1280 (part of England; Isle of Man) and 6440 (Illinois, USA).
During their monthlong visit in April, the GSE team, led by Phil Jones of the Rotary Club of Bolton Daybreak, toured police stations, fire departments, and hospital emergency rooms. They accompanied police units on patrols, attended a canine narcotics training session, and observed a high school lifesaving demonstration.
“I now have ideas that I can implement as soon as I get home, new ways of doing things that will show a direct improvement on the quality of service we provide,” said Nadia Brew, a lieutenant with the Cheshire police force. Among those ideas is implementing a community policing program similar to the one in Chicago.
“We were impressed by the dedication and commitment of [U.S.] volunteers,” Brew said upon her return home. “Whether they’re fire fighters, first responders, or high school students, they genuinely want to play a part in ensuring their communities are safe places to live and work.”
Based on her GSE experience, Brew is developing a plan that includes implementing street briefings of police officers, improving the quality of community meetings and training for community officers, and developing a culture of volunteers.
As with all GSEs, information sharing goes both ways. Roger Carter, principal emergency planning officer for the City of Leeds, explained to his U.S. counterparts how British responders use technology, particularly cell phones and text messaging, to communicate as an event unfolds. The approach is less common in the United States, but the UK team is helping to change that.
“They’re just on the brink of exploring these technologies, so we’ve been able to pass on a lot of shared information in relation to that,” Carter said.
While in the Chicago area, team members met up with their counterparts from District 6440. The U.S. group traveled to England in October 2006, led by Dennis Anderson of the Rotary Club of Batavia.
“It was interesting to discover that they’re actually implementing some of the ideas [they] learned during their trip to England,” said Cowley, who noted the growing number of local police departments using closed-circuit television to monitor high-crime areas.
To prove that communication between the two countries won’t end with the GSE, the team displayed the handfuls of business cards they’d received during their visit.
“One month is just a drop in the ocean,” Carter says. “There’s a lot of learning that will come over the years as a result of this experience.”