Nov. 9, 2002 As the sun broiled overhead at St. John's Susannaberg dump, several dozen firefighters and rescue folks from across the Caribbean watched Dennis Amodio of Tactical Rescue Training Inc. demonstrate how to get a trapped passenger out of a car.
"You've got to go to the corners. Always use your palms," he said, demonstrating how to break open a window without getting hurt.
A total of 67 people from across the Caribbean are on St. John this weekend for St. John Rescue's first Caribbean Region Vehicle Extrication and Building Collapse Training and Product Demonstrations.
While half the group spent Saturday afternoon learning vehicle extrication at the Susannaberg Dump, the rest studied how to deal with collapsed buildings at St. John Rescue President Marty Alperen's house.
Alperen said no St. John Rescue member has ever had to deal with a collapsed building. However, he said it could happen. In fact, two people were trapped under a Fish Bay house during 1995's Hurricane Marilyn.
"The point would be to stabilize the house so you can get the person out," Alperen said. St. John Rescue now has the tools to stabilize collapsed buildings, he said.
The tools demonstrated at this weekend's event wowed some of the firefighters and rescue workers from islands with very slim equipment budgets.
"It only takes money," said Winston Williams, a firefighter from Guyana.
In addition to Guyana, firefighters and rescue people came from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas, and of course, St. John, St. Thomas and St. Croix.
Eugene Phipps, who volunteers with St. Croix Rescue, said 15 of the organization's members came for the event. He said in earlier years, the members had to go abroad to get training.
"This is something that all three islands should do on a yearly basis," he said.
St. John firefighter Rafael Wesselhoft said he was glad to take advantage of the free training.
"I like to know as much as I can so I can do my job the best possible," he said.
The U.S. Department of Transportation sent Sam Haiman over from Puerto Rico to watch the training.
"The Department of Transportation is always looking for ways to reduce traffic fatalities," he said, as the firefighters and rescue people watched Amodio use a Power Hawk rescue tool to cut open one of the many abandoned cars at the dump.
Alperen said he organized the event after Power Hawk Rescue Systems staff jumped at the chance to show off its tools to firefighters and rescue people in the Caribbean.
He arrived in St. John Rescue's snazzy new vehicle, built especially for St. John conditions by Odyssey Automotive in Wharton, N.J.
President Laurence Kahan said the vehicle was small because St. John's roads are small. It has four-wheel drive, a generator and high-powered lights, front and back winches to pull vehicles back on the road, and a ventilations system that runs off a solar panel.
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