Deeba Shahnaz Akhter
8th October is unforgettable day in the history of Pakistan when a horrible earthquake of 7.6 magnitude hit Pakistan and Kashmir in 2005, took over 70,000 human lives and uprooted 3 million people. It does not stop there, five years later in 2010 Pakistan faced another unprecedented catastrophe floods that affected almost 20 million people and inflicted an estimated loss of Rs855 billion. Since 2010 numerous flood have been hitting the country. Although all disasters had huge effects on many precious human lives, infrastructures and economic condition but it also gave us opportunity to prepare ourselves to cope up in better way.
The Government of Pakistan has declared 8th October as National Disaster Awareness Day and with theme Tayar Pakistan and Punjab Emergency Service is observing Disaster Awareness week from 2nd October to 8th October with special focus on sensitising the communities dealing with calamities as disaster sensitised community can play vital role for the first 24 hrs to 72 hrs in emergencies and disaster. Furthermore they are always either sufferers or first responders and they do not have choice except to wait for professional emergency response if they are not well sensitised and trained.
The establishment of comprehensive emergency management system of Punjab Emergency Service Rescue 1122 and Emergency Services Academy as National Center of Excellence are the excellent steps of Government of Punjab to train the rescuers from all over the Pakistan on international standards and establishment of infrastructure to provide timely and professional emergency response to any untoward incident. The Punjab Emergency Service has trained over 15000 rescuers from all over Pakistan and rescued over 5.1 Million victims of different emergencies/ disaster since the Service has been established in 2004 from Lahore. This positive initiative is being replicated in Khber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit Biltistan, Azad Kashmir and Balochistan. The Provincial Governments are replicating tested emergency management system in their respective provinces according to their priority.
Apart from Government efforts, we all should realize that, a well disaster oriented community make better plans of preparedness, rehearse those plans in peacetime and lessen the impact of disaster. Disaster 2005 is full of the examples related to community participation from initial response to the different phases of disaster like recovery and rehabilitation. Community first responders have rescued many victims but unfortunate part was that nonprofessional handling of victims lead to deaths and disability. There was no doubt about the positive intentions of first responders from community but lack of awareness and training related to emergency evacuation of injured victims caused further damages. Civilized nations always learn from the disasters to have resilient community in their country.
It is pertinent to mention that Emergency Service Rescue 1122 has also initiated Rescue Mohafiz Program to organize the efforts of community for disaster risk reduction and also launched Pakistan Youth Initiative in collaboration with Voluntary Overseas (VSO) for community resilience through peace and safety promotion by registered and trained Rescue Mohafiz/Community Emergency Response Teams (CETRs).
The precautions for earthquake as per basic guidelines practiced by Japan are advance preparation which includes improve your home’s earthquake resilience through fastening down furniture and putting anti shatter coating on glass windows, Stockpile water and food stuffs at least for three days, should have radios and flashlights prepared, get to know people in your community better by getting actively involved in community training related to disaster management and discuss disaster preparedness you’re your family and verify how you will get in touch with each other and where the relief shelters are.
What to do after an earthquake step includes protect yourself and stay away from furniture that could topple over, and hide under a desk or table, do not panic or run outside and stop driving if in vehicle in first two minutes after an earthquake and Immediate following an earthquake try to prevent fires and escape routes, shut off all electrical and gas appliances. During first three days after earthquake make sure your family is safe, and watch out for aftershocks, assist neighbours with fire fighting rescue and relief, use drinking water and food that you have stocked pile and Beware of false rumours. From the fourth day onwards stay informed, work together for survival and recovery.
I believe everybody is an asset for the country and everybody can create difference. Lets join hands with Rescue 1122 and be Rescue Mohafiz (volunteer), put collective efforts through organized mechanism of community services for disaster preparedness, response and prevention.
—The writer is Head of Community Safety and Information Rescue 1122 Headquarters and can be reached at [email protected]