Friday, July 29, 2005

Our Role in Disaster Management

When disaster struck Mumbai in the form of heavy rains and floods,we realized that we had very poor disaster management system, and blamed Govt./Police for this.But what is the role of citizens during disaster? No one has any idea what we as citizens supposed to do.Take the case of Tuesdays floods with few examples.
Everyone wanted to reach safety of the home irrespective of the perils along the way.I gave lift at 11.30pm to group of 5 ladies with their children. Chidren had gone to school near Chandan cinema and their mothers got worried and left their homes on Yari Road at 4 pm to go to school and bring them home.While returning they had to cross overflowing Nallah where there was very strong currant as water was flowing to sea in ebb tide. They took 8 hrs in rains, darkness and flooded Link road for to and fro journey.Where children were safe? In school or on roads?
Mr. Mahesh Bhatt interviewed a lady, who went to pick up her daughter in Jamnabai School which was under may be 7 feet water and from there to Neena's home in Juhu, wading through water for 1 1/2 hrs.Mr.Bhatt applauded their efforts. But where they were safe? in elite school like Jamnabai or on road flooded with dirty water? Surely elite school like Jannabai can safely keep student and provide water and food to students for upto 24 hrs.
Ms. Dilnaz Boga -Journalist with Mumbai Mirror-moves out of safety of Times Bldg. with 2 lady colleagues to go to their homes in Mahim and beyond and has described her experience in Mumbai Mirror.Its a good copy to read but can she explain what was the need to leave safety of TOI bldg in first place.TOI doesn't have facility to keep journalist there for 24 hrs?
I agree with bloggist 1963, that people would like to be with their families during disaster but disasters are not managed by emotions. You have to carryout your assigned role to manage and help in disaster.So its important to fix citizens role while planning disaster management..Everywhere schools are used for shelter during disaster and here we take children out of safety of school to dangerously flooded roads.In future schools and office should be equipped to accommodate students and staff for the duration till all clear is given or safely moved by authorities.
Lesson to be learned from this disaster is to be at safe place during disaster and move only when all clear is sounded, as was advised to Londoner during 7/7 Bomb blasts.If this simple principle were followed by officegoers in Mumbai, then they would have stayed put in safe place like office or nearest safe place like home of friend or relative nearby.This would have prevented traffic Jams caused by stalled cars,(even their costly cars and other valuables would have been safe),easy movement of rescue teams which were held up by traffic and fewer incidents of need to rescue people who were trapped in surging water while going home. There would have been fewer people on stations and lot easier to provide water and food.Telecommunication would not be overwhelmed and their dear ones would not have spent hours worrying about them. In my hospital, staff and even visiting doctors were asked not to leave till water receded and was safe to go home.We made arrangement for the food(just omelet and bread).Even a couple who wanted to use toilet in the hospital was asked to stay in hospital premises till water receded.My daughter was asked to stay at relatives place till we fetched her next day evening.A doctor friend in Parla -west was host to friend's daughter and her friends for upto Wednesday afternoon.They were safe and we spent worryfree night.This horrowing experience was completely avoidable and unfortunately there were many who lost their lives for not following this First principle of Disaster Management.

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