On the 12th of January, 2010, a massive earthquake struck the island nation of Haiti, causing extensive infrastructure damage and killing hundreds of thousands of people. In the days following the disaster, teams from around the world, including Global Disaster Immediate Response Team (DIRT), deployed to provide assistance to survivors. During that time, the team operated a mass-casualty ambulance and was able to move victims and supplies across greater Port-au-Prince. Global DIRT’s mandate is to provide aid and emergency assistance until the pre-existing agencies and organizations are able to handle normal operations. Prior to the earthquake in Haiti, ambulance services were non-existent. As a result, Global DIRT has maintained operations there while building a sustainable solution to emergency medical transport across the country.
Shortly after 10pm on January 16, 2012, a large dump truck hauling debris from the reconstruction effort lost its brakes while traveling down Rue Delmas in Port-au-Prince. The driver jumped out of the vehicle, and the unguided truck proceeded to hit three vehicles and fifteen motorcycles before driving over a curb and hitting dozens of local street vendors. The truck then reflected off a wall and back into the street where it sent a smaller truck over a ten foot embankment before tipping on its side and crushing two vehicles underneath it. When the vehicle finally came to rest on the edge of a wall, 32 people had been killed, nearly 100 were injured, dozens of them critically, and live victims were trapped underneath the massive truck. One Global DIRT team received notification of the critical situation from the United Nations (UN) and responded immediately, while another team that had been out of communication happened upon the accident and began to assist. The incident took dozens of personnel and heavy equipment to remove the truck and free the vehicles underneath it. The accident and response sparked an urgency within the Haitian government to develop plans for the Ministry of Health’s Centre Ambulancier National (CAN) program. Global DIRT was brought in to train and serve as advisors for the program by Secretary of State Reginald Delva.
Global DIRT began development of an official curriculum for emergency medical services (EMS), customized for the unique challenges within the country. The team also began training the Ministry of Health personnel who operated the 30 Land Cruiser ambulances donated by Brazil. By the summer of 2012, Global DIRT had trained over 75 personnel to a first responder level. The ambulances now respond via central dispatch accessed by dialing 116 and are equipped with backboards, oxygen, AEDs, and trauma supplies. In addition, Global DIRT provided first aid training for the employees of businesses in the industrial and tourism sectors that have an increased potential for workplace accidents. Integration with the private sector has been identified as a key manner in which to facilitate expansion of EMS and maintain a continuous funding source for ambulance response to at-risk local national residents.
Global DIRT is further developing a private-public partnership to include medical evacuation membership coverage to the expatriate community and motorcycle medic teams to reduce response times in urban areas. Additionally, Global DIRT and Respond S.A., private sector partners, are working to form strategic partnerships with hotels and tourism businesses in order to secure permanent funding streams. Project expansion is continuing in 2013 and includes the development of helicopter tourism operations with aircraft on standby for medical flights as well as personnel and fleet vehicle expansion to accommodate additional medical coverage in northern and southern Haiti. The project team is currently working to secure grants to facilitate this planned expansion during the Fall of 2013 and operations are scheduled to continue for another five years before fully turning training and management over to the country of Haiti.