by Ahmed T. Chohaun, Rescuer from Pakistan
The Pakistan Emergency Response System, like those of many other industrialized nations, firmly traces its roots to the civil defense structures developed after independence from Britain in 19471 and its still growing today. Emergency Response, as an academic discipline and a profession, has advanced significantly in recent decades. Today’s emergency responders are taking on a much more important role in government at all levels and are assuming responsibilities far beyond the realm of yesterday’s professionals.
Most people would think that the emergency response system practiced in Pakistan today is not among the most advanced and best funded in the world, which is not true. The idea of a professional emergency service and response was initiated as an emergency Ambulance Service pilot project from Lahore in 2004. This pilot project always kept in mind the failures of repeated attempts to revitalize and modernize the existing emergency services. Everyone was very skeptical about the project success. The establishment of the service was a great challenge, especially when there were no trained emergency personnel or an emergency training institute available in Pakistan at the time. Even the emergency departments of teaching hospitals did not have trained emergency paramedics. Against all odds, the service was established after successfully overcoming all the challenges; recruitment of right staff and training on modern lines; acquisition of appropriate land for rescue station; construction of rescue stations; establishment of Emergency Number 1122. After third party evaluations revealed this service to be exemplary in training quality, care response, and professionalism; the service has been established in all major cities of Punjab and now completely functional in all 36 districts of the Province of Punjab Pakistan. The motto of the service is:
“Development of safer communities through establishment of an effective system for emergency preparedness, response and prevention.”
Today I can proudly say that I am one of the pioneer members of this Rescue Service established in Rawalpindi, Pakistan Region in the year 2006. Before the establishment of the service I saw people in great pain and suffering during emergencies as the community was not trained enough to cope with the minor emergencies. Before the service, mismanagement and lack of basic emergency response, minor emergencies often turned into big disasters. Now with the presence of Trained Rescue Service only in Province of Punjab; the service rescued more than 2,515,876 victims in different emergencies and disasters such as Road Traffic Accidents, Fire, Building Collapse, Blast, Crime & Terrorist activities while maintaining its response time of less than 7 minutes. Today Emergency Service Rescue 1122 is not only a model for other provinces but also for all South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries.
No doubt it’s just a beginning, despite the obvious achievements at all government levels, systemic failures still occur with regularity, thus proving the obvious – that as a nation we do not yet possess all of the answers to emergency management’s problems. There are variety of emergency management failures and weaknesses that exist. These examples can deal not only with response, but also with mitigation, preparedness and recovery.
2005 Kashmir quake: A 7.6-Richter scale quake struck the Kashmir region on the India-Pakistan border and parts of northwestern Pakistan on 8 October. According to official figures, at least 73,000 people were killed and more than 3.3 million made homeless. The worst affected areas included Neelum Valley and Bagh District in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Mansehra Division. A massive international relief effort was launched. Work continues today to rebuild damaged infrastructure.
2007 Cyclone Yemyin: At least 380 people were killed in Balochistan, 250 in Sindh and 100 in NWFP as a result of flash floods triggered by Cyclone Yemyin, which struck coastal areas in early July. Some 350,000 people were displaced, 1.5 million affected and more than two million livestock perished.
2010 Hunza Lake disaster: A landslide in January 2010 in Attabad village in Hunza-nagar District in the far north of the country killed 20 people and led to around 40 houses sliding into the Hunza river. Debris from the landslide caused the river to dam, leading to the formation of a large lake which threatened to flood downstream areas. Some 20,000 were forced to leave their homes by June.
2010 floods: The toll so far: 1,600 deaths; over six million affected. Pakistan has sought international help to cope with the catastrophe. Despite mass evacuations, there are fears the death toll will rise as flooding reaches the southern province of Sindh and the risk of water-borne disease outbreaks increases in many areas.
Other than natural disasters, Pakistan is also suffering from major terrorist attacks and tremendous fires incidents, in which many innocent people lose their lives, including rescuers. As a nation, Pakistan needs to focus more on the principals of Prevention, Protection & Precaution rather than Emergency Response.
1. The British Parliament passed the Indian Independence Act on July 18, 1947. The Act created two dominions, Indian Union and Pakistan. - See more here.