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Wednesday 03 October 2012

Global candidates begin Response Team training
Global candidates begin Response Team training
Candidates from Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Egypt, Brazil, Canada, USA and UK have been undertaking the ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) training course this week in Cornwall, southwest England.

Aspirant SRT members from all walks of life arrived on 29 September to carry out nine days of intensive training that will prepare them for deployment to a disaster zone if successful.

David Eby is the Chief Instructor for the course. With a past career in law enforcement training in the United States and a passion for ShelterBox, he has flown over to the UK  for every course since the very first one in 2007. With this course being the last of its kind, ShelterBox spoke to David about the evolution of SRT training.

When did you get involved as a trainer for the nine-day course?

I was a candidate on the very first nine-day course in April 2007 and then became involved as a trainer in the following courses.

What SRT training was in place before April 2007?

Before the first course started, around the time of the Asian Tsunami on Boxing Day 2004, ShelterBox first recruited existing people from the community to go as Response Team members. As the organisation grew obviously the need for training did too, and with the recruitment process already there, the nine-day emerged and it's been running and evolving ever since.

David Eby, Chief Instructor of the pre-deployment training course, talks to candidates during a previous course.

What are the main differences between the first course and the current one?

It has grown alongside the growth of the organisation. When the course first started out, we were looking for people that had police, fire or military backgrounds, because of the nature of going in small teams to disaster zones with a relatively small number of ShelterBoxes. So training was really just to expose candidates to the types of things they would be doing in the field, there was no quantifiable criteria. But as we've grown, people with humanitarian and training backgrounds have joined the organisation, so we've been able to incorporate more training that's specific to what they will be finding in the field.

What type of things can you learn on the current course?

The current course takes into account experiences that we've collected from SRT members who have deployed over the last six years, and finds a place for them in the training programme that would benefit candidates going into the same situations. This can be everything from managing stress to working with the aid community and understanding the humanitarian structure that exists out there that we are working alongside with and amongst.

David Eby, Chief Instructor of the pre-deployment training course, delivering a lecture.

This is the last nine-day course in this format, how is it changing next year?

It's very much of a philosophical change. As we're growing, the nature of deployments is changing. We used to deploy on a smaller scale but on the heels of Haiti, Japan and on-going humanitarian crises in Horn of Africa, we are seeing much larger, more extensive deployments going on, which require a slightly different skillset than the way we have been operating in the past. As people have gone into the field, we have seen what parts of the training are truly effective and reflective of the types of things they're going to find themselves and then also what is not having direct relevance to the field.

So essentially there is going to be a longer assessment programme, which is four days. This gives us a chance to see people in an austere environment under pressure to see their true colours. Once they get through that we want the nine-day to become more of a training course rather than an assessment. The current course serves as both training and assessing. Sometimes that can be counterproductive, as someone being exhausted from just the routine of the course will find it hard to retain huge amounts of information that we're giving them.

We think that the new format of going through a longer assessment course and then onto a full training nine-day course without assessment might be more conducive to walking away better prepared for deployment.

ShelterBox is also running continuation training known as the Module A course for existing SRT members alongside the nine-day. For more information about applying to become an SRT member, please visit the Academy's website here 
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