Friday December 08, 2023

Journey from 2005 disaster to resilience

October 09, 2022

Every year, we commemorate 8th October in remembrance of October 2005 catastrophic earthquake, which took over 87,000 human lives and uprooted 3.5 million people. At that time, the helplessness was obvious as there was no trained team to conduct search and rescue activities and the country was at the receiving end in all respect due to dismal state of rescue services.

After 2005 earthquake, other disasters like flood drought, etc., had also huge effects on many human lives, infrastructures and economic condition. These disasters also provided opportunity to improve preparedness, response capacities. Numerous steps have been taken including quality construction in earthquake hit areas, newly started Punjab Emergency Service (Rescue 1122) by then established the first Disaster Emergency Response Team in October 2006 and subsequently has been involved in the capacity building of its search and rescue team as per international standards.

Likewise, Emergency Services Academy started training of rescuers from all over the country to establish a comprehensive integrated emergency management system in all districts of Punjab and in other provinces of the country. Today, the Emergency Services Academy has trained over 23,000 emergency services personnel for Punjab, KP, GB, Baluchistan and AJK.

The integrated model of Emergency Service Rescue 1122 is being replicated in other provinces to provide right to emergency care without any discrimination. Pakistan Rescue Team (PRT) of Emergency Services Academy, Rescue 1122, Lahore has become the first United Nations International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (UN-INSARAG) classified team in South Asia after completing an extensive evaluation process of several years under supervision of UN INSARAG mentors for national and international disaster response as per international standards. Government of Pakistan through National Disaster Management, UNOCHA and Emergency Services Academy Classified Team striving to train more UN INSARAG classified teams in the country. Rescue 1122 has also initiated process to train light search and rescue teams from UN INSARAG.

Government of the Pakistan has notified 8th October as the National Resilience Day which is positively highlighting our national resolve for preparedness as well as resilience of our people. Rescue Service has rescued over 11.5 million victims of different emergencies, the modern Fire Rescue Service responded over 197,000 fire incidents and saved losses worth over Rs580 billion. Motorbike Rescue Service responded over 1.1 million emergencies with average response time of 4 minutes in 9 divisional headquarters of Punjab and Patient Transfer Service shifted 1.1 million from lower health facility to higher health facility. The emergency service has been expanded to all districts and tehsils and motorbike rescue service started in all districts by Ch Parvez Elahi, chief minister, Punjab to provide emergency services at the doorsteps of the people of Punjab.

During COVID-19 pandemic Rescue performed frontline role for shifting of over 23,000 corona patients in quarantine centres and hospitals, carried out 4,000 corona burials in a dignified manner, assisted heath department for corona patients’ care in hospitals and provided support in distribution of ration packs to 50,000 deserving families.

Furthermore, Emergency Service has a closed liaison through Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) in all Union Councils (UCs) of Punjab. These CERTs are being established in all UCs of Punjab to assist in management of emergencies and safety promotion. In order to educate youth on emergency response, first aid and safety promotion Rescue Cadet Corps are being trained in colleges and universities. The purpose of these corps is to have socially responsible youth and first aider in every home. Rescue 1122 is also focal point for Prime Minister Initiative Pak Life Saver Programme to train citizens on essential lifesaving skills like Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation so that maximum lives could be saved in case of any emergency or disaster.

Every year Emergency Services Academy organises National Rescue Challenge in order to improve coordination, and ensure uniform standards of emergency services in the country. This year, 11th National Rescue Challenge has been planned from 11 to 14 October 2022 and all Emergency Services of Pakistan are invited to participate in the Rescue Challenge.

Similarly, 6th National Volunteer CERTs Challenge shall also be organised in the academy from 5 to 9 December to ensure the preparedness of CERTs/ volunteers for disaster response at community level. These community teams shall be evaluated on Community Action for Disaster Response (CADRE) skills. The continuous strengthening of emergency services and capacity building of communities are improving the level of resilience in the country and also helps to develop safer communities in Pakistan.

Deeba Shahnaz Akhter

Head of Community Safety & Information Rescue Punjab