What to do in NATURAL or MAN MADE DISASTER – DOs AND DON’Ts
“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”
Chennai flooding was an eye opener to South India. Lessons must be learnt quickly so as not repeat our mistakes and make preparations to combat more efficiently next time the disaster strikes.
In man-made disasters like terrorism, there may be no warning. However in natural disasters like tsunami or flooding or cyclone there is enough time to prepare the population.
Having been involved in rescue efforts abroad (Bradford fire, Lockerbie incident, SAS Hereford bomb training accidents),I have some ideas and have put them forward in the Indian context.
By no means this is complete and many more can be added to suit our environment.
BEFORE THE DISASTER
METEOROLOGICAL FORECAST: This is a government agency and hence government should be responsible for the forecasts of natural disasters. If they do not know or foresee, or worse still do not inform the public of an impending disaster, then all is lost.
Live status of the impending cyclone or rain with flooding by satellite images in real time should form a significant part of the news. This should be based on Indian satellites of which we are very proud of. No point in counting on CNN or BBC or foreign channels for Indian weather for the simple reason they do not depend on our weather bureau for their weather forecast!
For man made predictions of terrorist strike, the news should be informed to public including the city of probable attack, the possible areas of future incident, what precautions the public should take and also the pictures of suspected terrorists.
THE PLACEMENT OF THE RESCUE AGENCIES ONCE THE PREDICTION OF CALAMITY IS CONFIRMED:
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!'
Once it is confirmed that the calamity is really going to happen, the placement stage is reached.
Placement of sources should predict the impact zone and also the rescue groups should be placed in a circle in the periphery of the impact zone.
GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL TO BE AVAILABLE:
Government should alert all including the ones on leave and the reserve personnel to report for emergency duty - the police personnel, home guards, coast guards, NCC, etc. and cancel leave and get them ready for action. State government should have the maximum personnel for a rapid response. If the disaster become too small, at least they have had a good practice session for a major incident.
CANCEL BANDOBUSTH DUTY IN A CALAMITY :
The bandobusth duty of VIPs should be cancelled and the VIP movement should not be allowed in that impact zone or the ring zone around it , as a lot of police resources are wasted for single person.
CENTRAL GOVERNMENT AGENCIES ON STANDBY:
Central Government Agencies like the Army, Navy, Air force and CRPF should be warned to be on Standby for cyclone/ disaster with their rescue service fully alert.
INFORM PUBLIC WHO THE RESCUE LEADERS ARE EARLY:
Team leaders (civil) for rescue service teams – their names, their photos, telephone numbers (the actual working telephone numbers!) should be flashed on TV, Radio, Social Media. These should include for instance the Municipal Corporation Commissioner, Collector, Police Commissioner, Assistant Commissioners of Police, Red cross, Hospitals heads with their telephone numbers, hospital addresses should be flashed so that ALL the public are aware of whom to contact in case of any help.
INSTANT ROLE OF CENTRAL AND STATE GOVERNMENT – DON’T STAND ON FORMALITIES:
Prime Minister or Home Minister should take direct responsibility or by phone calls to the Chief Minister of the State for the prediction of what to do. They should be visible BEFORE THE INCIDENT on TV of what they are going to do, where the safe houses and camps are , who to contact and their phone numbers. This will inform the public of the numbers and also we will be sure that the administration is also keeping an active eye on the situation. They can reassure people to leave homes when asked to do so by the rescue personnel in dire situations and all will be taken care of when they are away from home.
USING SOCIAL SERVICES UNITS WITH POWER:
Learning from Chennai flooding, Churches, Temples, Mosques, Schools, Colleges are to be prepared along with their wonderful heads for charitable shelters and resuscitation, if necessary. These should be outlined and consent obtained BEFORE the disasters , to prepare for the same.
WHAT ELSE TO AUGMENT OUR FORCES WITH: GO SOLAR!
Encouragement by government agencies to develop SOLAR energy in the form of SOLAR BATTERY rechargers for Mobiles, torches, water heaters, localized limited electricity in houses, etc will be most useful in a natural calamity or a thermonuclear incident.
HOW TO DEVELOP SUCH A TECHNOLOGY AT AN AFFORDABLE RATE?
A prize competition held in engineering colleges with a theme of this sort will bring out the best in youth to develop products. This is how the western agencies pick out the best talents and the best equipment for the government agencies and military.
FREE SATELLITE PHONES:
SATELLITE phones should be more freely available with the rescue personnel as these do not depend on the service providers at the time of calamity. Satellite phones should be the mode of communication for the armed forces, top police officials, mobile rescue units, revenue officials at the time of rescue in charge of co-ordination. These should also have solar energy. We have enough brilliant engineers in India to come up with the affordable technology .
SOCIAL CLUBS TO RISE UP:
Rotary, Lions, Jaycees, Round tables, Fan clubs of movie actors, Blood donation groups and many of the social organizations with their leaders and their phone numbers should be available with the municipal authorities early on and finally with the rescue personnel. They should be handed over to the radio, TV channels at the onset of calamity for co ordination and rescue efforts.
GOOD SAMARITANS ON THE GROUND:
The good Samaritans did yeoman service in Chennai floods and their efforts will make the job easier. They also know the locals by names as they are already doing a lot of charity work.
IN THE EVENT OF THE ACTUAL DISASTER
RESTORATION OF ORDER AND PEACE:
Looting of shops, stores, car jacking, thefts, murders, rapes, etc have all be described in Katrina calamity in USA. These are to be guarded against by the police personnel and the home guards. Mere presence of uniformed personnel on the ground is useful for not only rescue but also to deter any disorderly conduct.
CARE OF THE DEAD:
Disposal of the dead by Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Jain priests as per their custom. These priests list should also be available with the top rescue officials for counselling of the families, dying victims last rites and the actual care of the dead .
Unidentified and unclaimed bodies should be photographed, DNA profiles taken , autopsied and buried early to prevent diseases. If this is done as a routine, public will learn to respect this. Care of the living takes precedence to the emotional sentiments.
PLAN RESCUE CAMPS BEFORE EMERGENCY:
Rescue camps should be planned much earlier and actually altered in the actual zone. They should be identified clearly by posters, set up and manned by volunteers/ social organizations and government agencies.
HOW TO RUN RESCUE CAMPS:
Each camp should be left to run on its own without any interference from the government to push in its name to claim credit when the care and the rescue and rehabilitation of tax payers are most vital.
Rescue camps properly labelled should have food, water, clothes, footwear, doctors or nurses for ailments.
Also counsellors should be made available for the vulnerable such as lost children, single women, the pregnant and the elderly.
There should be temporary camps where the homeless can be housed free of cost, clothed, fed and treated by visiting nurses or doctors for minor ailments. The ones who require hospitalization should be sent to local hospitals of any kind – government or private.
TV ANCHORS WITH SENSE OF PROPRIETY:
TV channels should exhibit common sense and civic sense in not blaming anyone (other than terrorists) during the actual rescue operation, just to increase their viewing rating.