Journey from 2005 disaster to resilience

Every year, we commemorate October 8 in memory of the catastrophic earthquake of October 2005, which claimed the lives of more than 87,000 people and uprooted 3.5 million people. At that time, the helplessness was evident as there was no trained team to carry out search and rescue activities and the country was the recipient in every way due to the dismal state of the rescue services.

After the 2005 earthquake, other disasters such as floods, droughts, etc., also had huge effects on many human lives, infrastructure and economic situation. These disasters have also provided an opportunity to improve preparedness and response capabilities. Many measures were taken including quality construction in the earthquake affected areas, the new Punjab Emergency Service (Rescue 1122) established the first emergency response team in case of disaster in October 2006 and was subsequently involved in building the capacity of its search and rescue team as per international standards.

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

The integrated Rescue 1122 emergency service model is being replicated in other provinces to provide the right to emergency care without discrimination. The Pakistan Rescue Team (PRT) from the Academy of Emergency Services, Rescue 1122, Lahore has become the first classified team of the United Nations International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (UN-INSARAG) in South Asia. South after completing a multi-year comprehensive assessment process under UN supervision. INSARAG mentors for national and international disaster response in accordance with international standards. The Government of Pakistan through National Disaster Management, UNOCHA and the Emergency Services Academy Classified Team is working to train more UN INSARAG Classified Teams in the country . Rescue 1122 has also started a process of forming light UN INSARAG search and rescue teams.

The Government of Pakistan has designated October 8 as National Resilience Day, which positively highlights our national resolve to prepare and the resilience of our people. Rescue Service has rescued over 11.5 million victims from different emergencies, the modern Fire Rescue Service has responded to over 197,000 fires and averted losses worth over 580 billion rupees. The Motorcycle Rescue Service responded to over 1.1 million emergencies with an average response time of 4 minutes across 9 division headquarters in Punjab and the Patient Transfer Service moved 1.1 million lower health institutions to higher health institutions. The emergency service has been extended to all districts and the tehsil and motorbike rescue service has been launched in all districts by Ch Parvez Elahi, Chief Minister of Punjab to provide emergency services at the gates of the people of Punjab.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rescue played a frontline role in transferring more than 23,000 corona patients to quarantine centers and hospitals, carried out 4,000 corona burials in a dignified manner, helped the service healthcare for corona patient care in hospitals and provided support for the distribution of ration packs to 50,000 deserving families.

In addition, the emergency service has strong liaison through Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) in all Trade Union Councils (CUs) in Punjab. These CERTs are being established in all CUs in Punjab to assist in emergency management and safety promotion. In order to educate young people about emergency response, Rescue Cadet Corps first aid and safety promotion are trained in colleges and universities. The purpose of these corps is to have socially responsible young people and first aiders in every home. Rescue 1122 is also the focal point of the Prime Minister Initiative Pak Life Saver program to train citizens in essential lifesaving skills like cardiopulmonary resuscitation so that as many lives as possible can be saved in the event of an emergency or disaster.

Each year, the Academy of Emergency Services holds the National Rescue Challenge to improve coordination and ensure uniform standards of emergency services nationwide. This year, the 11th National Rescue Challenge is scheduled for October 11-14, 2022 and all emergency services in Pakistan are invited to participate in the rescue challenge.

Similarly, the 6th National CERT Volunteer Challenge will also be held at the academy from December 5-9 to ensure the preparedness of CERTs/Volunteers for disaster response at the community level. These community teams will be assessed on the Competencies for Community Action for Disaster Response (CADRE). Continuous strengthening of emergency services and capacity building of communities is improving the level of resilience in the country and also helping to develop safer communities in Pakistan.

Deeba Shahnaz Akhter

Head of Community Safety and Information Rescue Punjab

[email protected]