Journey from 2005 disaster to resilience 

Published: 12:36 AM, 8 Oct, 2022
Journey from 2005 disaster to resilience 
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Every year, we commemorate October 8 in remembrance of the October 2005 catastrophic earthquake, which took over 87,000 human lives and affected 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 receiving end in all respect due to the dismal state of rescue services.

After the 2005 earthquake, other disasters like flooding, drought, etc had also huge effects on many human lives, infrastructures, and economic conditions. These disasters also provided an opportunity to improve preparedness and response capacities. Numerous steps have been taken including quality construction in earthquake-hit areas, newly started Punjab Emergency Service (Rescue 1122) 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 rescuers from all over the country to establish a comprehensive integrated emergency management system in all districts of Punjab and in other Provinces of Pakistan. Today Emergency Services Academy has trained over 23000 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 the right to emergency care without any discrimination.

Pakistan Rescue Team (PRT) of Emergency Services Academy Rescue 1122 Lahore has become the 1st 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 the supervision of UN INSARAG Mentors for National and International disaster response as per international standards.

The government of Pakistan through National Disaster Management, UNOCHA, and Emergency Services Academy Classified Team strive to train more UN INSARAG classified teams in the country. Rescue 1122 has also initiated a process to train light search and rescue teams from UN INSARAG.

Government of the Pakistan has notified 8th October as National Resilience Day which is positively highlighting our national resolve for preparedness as well as the resilience of our people. Rescue Service has rescued over 11.5 million victims of different emergencies, the modern Fire Rescue Service responded to over 197,000 fire incidents and saved losses worth over 580 billion.

Motorbike Rescue Service responded to over 1.1 million emergencies with an average response time of 4 minutes in 9 divisional headquarters of Punjab and Patient Transfer Service shifted 1.1 million from lower health facilities to higher health facilities.  

The emergency service has been expanded to all districts and tehsils and the motorbike rescue service was started in all districts by Ch Parvez Elahi, Chief Minister Punjab to provide emergency services at the doorsteps of the people of Punjab. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rescue performed the frontline role in shifting over 23000 corona patients to quarantine centres and hospitals, carried out 4000 corona burials in a dignified manner, assisted the health department for corona patients’ care in hospitals, and provided support in the distribution of Ration packs to 50,000 deserving families.

Furthermore, Emergency Service has close 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 Cores is to have socially responsible youth and first aiders in every home. Rescue 1122 is also a focal point for Prime Minister Initiative Pak Life Saver Program to train citizens on essential lifesaving skills like Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation so that a maximum number of lives could be saved in case of any emergency or disaster. 

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

Similarly, the 6th National Volunteer CERTs Challenge shall also be organized in the Academy from 5th to 9th December to ensure the preparedness of CERTs/ Volunteers for Disaster Response at a 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 helping to develop safer communities in Pakistan.

Categories : Opinion
Deeba Shahnaz Akhter

The writer is the head of Community Safety and Information, Punjab Emergency Service, and can be reached at safepakmission@gmail.com