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You’ve GOT To Know: Ambergris Caye’s RRR Emergency Response Team

Ambergris Caye has a team doing amazing work protecting residents and visitors by providing quick response to emergencies.  Driven by a powerful mission, RRR (you’ll see the stickers and signs and magnets all over town) – Triple R Response/Rickilee Rescue and Response – a charitable organization – has brought 24-emergency response services, on land and sea, to Ambergris Caye.

Write this number down.  Wait…it’s 2020…program it in your phone.  It’s important.  627-1117 for emergencies.

I’ve seen the signs all over town…and read stories in the local news..and I’ve most certainly seen the ambulance speeding by but I wanted to learn more.  Because I know from experience that there were quite a few things that I had taken for granted when living in the United States. Infrastructure and institutions that I never thought about because I never used them.  I just…took them for granted.  Examples are 24-hour hospitals, ambulance services, trash collection, animal control- services, sometimes critical services, that are not “a given” in Belize and many places in the world.

I knew WAY too little about this organization and so I asked if they could meet with me…and we sat down at Estel’s last week.

I want to share who they are, what they do but also we can help them.  This is a group run completely by charitable donations and they are providing an amazing service to all of us here on the Caye.  Saving lives.

Their mission:  “Our mission is to assist the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize in implementing a volunteer-based emergency response system that coordinates both American and community resources to help protect human life.”

And if I start to repeat myself or babble a bit, it’s only because I am beyond impressed – I’m almost in disbelief – at the amount they have been able to accomplish.  To take a great idea…to raise the amount of money it takes to make it happen – to cut thru the miles and miles of red tape…to coordinate with so many groups that can often have dissimilar agendas…it’s incredible.

All propelled by a very powerful reason.

When and Why They Started

RRR was started a few years ago after a terrible tragedy on the west side of the island.  In March of 2017, 29-year old Rickilee Mercer died in a jet ski accident off of Secret Beach while she was on vacation.  Her family and friends who owned a home on Ambergris Caye mobilized as quickly as they could.  Calling all local authorities as well as the US Embassy to try to locate her.  Unfortunately, her body was not located until the next afternoon.

Rickilee Response and Rescue (Triple R Response) was created by her loved ones in response to the loss of Rickilee, in hopes of helping others like her.

Incredible.

Traci and Jim Curtin, family friends and part-time residents of Ambergris Caye, got to work almost immediately to assemble a team in San Pedro – they enlisted Billy Leslie, head of the San Pedro Tour Guides Association as well as born and raised San Pedrano as well as Vanessa Parham, part of NEMO (National Emergergency Man) here in Belize.  Organization, recruiting, integration with the Red Cross, the Town Council, the Police, the San Pedro Polyclinic and many many more.  AND fundraising.  Much of which was started in the Houston, Texas area.

Billy is the captain here in San Pedro.  He knows everyone – he knows every nook and cranny of the island and possibly the country – he’s a pretty amazing guy.

Billy Leslie RRR

It was a MONUMENTAL task…almost unfathomable…and it’s incredible what they’ve done so far.

You can read about some of the meetings and events in their first few years here.

What They Can Do

RRR’s first phase was a direct response to what happened to Rickilee – they focused on Water Response.  They worked to section the surrounding waters into a grid – each designated to a local dive operation that has agreed to be part of the program.   Remember that this is NOT a small island!  Over 25 mile in length…reef side, lagoons.  Just the Hol Chan Marine Reserve is over 400 square km.

They worked to get equipment for the responders – everything from handheld radios to searchlights to binculars and…

Incredible.  (Here’s just one donation in 2018 in the San Pedro Sun)

They also work closely with Hol Chan Marine Reserve and their large team of rangers and personnel.  HCMR now has a number of high powered cameras monitoring areas like Secret Beach and the surrounding waters and the parks – Hol Chan and Mexico Rocks.  Cameras strong enough that they are able to search and find missing boats or people before emergency staff even arrive.

Now, much of their work is done on land.  Billy said that the #1 response right now is golf cart accidents.  (Please remember that drinking and driving is illegal.  And that though they are golf carts…they can tip over when going full speed around sharp corners and weigh…1000lbs! PLEASE drive responsibly!)

RRR is available 24-hours a day.  A quick response ambulance with a driver/responder fully ALS trained in CPR and first aid.  They have AED devices to assist in diagnosing heart problems.

They arrive at the scene and do an assessment.  They take patient information and history.   They assess patient response.  They can do injury assessment – bandaging, splits, oxygen needs.  They check circulation, breathing, heart rate, temperature and other vital signs.  They continue to take these readings – every 5 minutes for critical situations and every 15 minutes for more stable patients.  When they arrive at the clinic or the doctor’s office, they do a “patient hand-off” – vitals, history, all information and they follow up as needed. (Thank you Vanessa for this information!)

They now equipped for COVID – proper PPE and protections – and coordinate with the flu clinic of San Pedro to get the rapid response testing needed for all emergency patients.

Coordinating with Dr. Canul at the Polyclinic, Dr. Dan Gonzalez at Ambergris Hopes Clinic (and the team who works with the Hyperbaulic Chamber for dive accidents) – the patient is rushed, as needed to needed care.

RRR not only liaises with Coast Guard, the Police, the traffic department, the Hol Chan rangers, tour guides (who are all trained in first aid) – they can all mobilize as needed.  They coordinate the local flights, hospitals on the mainland, and if needed, evacuation to the states.

They have even outfitted BERT – Belize Emergency Response Team (air and land ambulances in Belize) with equipment.

Their services are FREE (response, first aid – they have even delivered a baby! – coordination, transportation all free – paid for by donations!).  They are available to Ambergris Caye residents AND visitors.

All to equip, educate and empower all of those on the ground in San Pedro – not just the RRR personnel.

This did not exist before on this island.  I had an emergency a few years ago – Jeff had a heart attack – and good lord…I fumbled and fumbled and we got very lucky.

MY 49-Year Old Boyfriend Had a Heart Attack on Ambergris Caye

To have a crew that knows the island, that knows who to call and can help you plan your next steps…it’s AMAZING.

They also contribute to the community in all sorts of different ways – thru the food banks, toys for kids at Christmas, HUGE donations to the local polyclinic, they brought in a huge ambulance during COVID and the lockdowns to deal with possible infections,…

Just a few weeks ago, they donated over $2 million in medical supplies – from beds to wheelchairs and surgical equipment to Belize hospitals.

Incredible.

How You Can Help

You can donate.  If you live on the island, think of it as a bit of insurance!  If you love the island, what an AMAZING service for all people here – locals and visitors of any income level – and for tourism as a whole.

Imagine having an emergency in your household, with a child or anyone, and having to call and wait for taxi to try to get to the doctor?  Or being a first time visitor staying at an AirBnB and…just having NO idea what to do?

2020 has been a rough year for fundraising as you can imagine.  Let’s HELP!  Even if just a bit to pay for gas for the ambulance or golf carts (remember gas is about $10bzd a gallon in Belize) or a bit for phone bills.  It’s all donation driven.

They also could use help in a few areas — aside from donations.  They can use some specific volunteer help.  Namely a volunteer coordinator.  Help with media and marketing/getting the word out there.  Please contact them if you are self-sufficient and think you can help!

How You Can Reach Them

Again, write the number down.  627-1117.  For emergencies.

And if you can help or have questions – you can contact them on their website.

And spread the word!





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