CBO: Nicaragua, 2015

On November 11th 2015, a dozen GlobalFire members from across Canada and the United States travelled to Nicaragua to conduct a two week Capacity Building Operation (CBO) in which they would equip and train Bomberos (Spanish for firefighters) from 17 different volunteer fire / EMS departments situated throughout the country’s Northwest.  

As one of world’s poorest countries, the financial realities in Nicaragua have meant that emergency services are not properly supported. To overcome the many challenges this presents, these departments have organized themselves into the Benemérito Cuerpo de Bomberos de Nicaragua and the Asociacion Civil Cuerpo de Bomberos Voluntarios de Nicaragua. The aim of these organizations is to share funds, equipment and training in an effort to assist one another to more safely and effectively perform one of the wold’s most dangerous jobs.  

Nicaraguan fire and emergency medical services are underfunded and rely almost entirely on equipment donations from Canada, United States, Russia and the European Union to operate.  Even though the Bomberos are almost all volunteers, the stations are fully staffed 24hrs a day.

36 Bomberos, attended from the cities of Chinandega, Corinto, El Viejo and Leon.  The central training location was in Chinandega which is located in the northwest pacific region of Nicaragua.  GlobalFire provided in class and practical instruction on a variety of topics including lessons on their personal protective equipment, fire fighting tactics (including practical evolutions), search and rescue techniques, firefighter survival and rescue, vehicle extrication, SCBA, forcible entry and advanced first aid.

Due to the total lack of training facilities, the GlobalFire team had to be creative and arrange for the use of suitable locations and then modify them as required. The team had to construct many training props to ensure safe and effective lessons. To secure the use of abandoned buildings at the Chinandega airport for practical fire and rescue training, GlobalFire members taught government employees in basic first and CPR.  In some instances large crowds gathered at the training locations to watch the activities and there was intense media interest throughout the weeks the team was deployed. This type to teaching environment is nothing new to GlobalFire and the team departed North America with bags full of tricks and members full of the hard won knowledge from previous missions.

A shipping container full of fire, rescue, emergency medical and hazardous material equipment was shipped from Canada to be distributed around the region by the GlobalFire team.  

While the firefighter training course was taking place, part of the GlobalFire team was travelling to the region’s fire stations to conduct a needs assessment of the tools, vehicles and facilities being used. Purchases were made and mechanical and trades people were hired locally to help remedy what deficiencies were identified.  Most notably, these team members were able to purchase or import parts to put an ambulance back on the road in the City of Chinandega, fire trucks in the cities of El Viejo and Leon and an air compressor was located, repaired and installed in Chinandega which will be used by all surrounding fire stations to fill the air bottles for their breathing packs.  

All of GlobalFire’s services are provided completely free of charge. Each team member pays their own expenses to ensure every penny donated to GlobalFire goes directly to helping emergency first responders in the developing world.