Thursday, December 27, 2007

Poor infrastructure takes a toll on emergency services too

Poor infrastructure takes a toll on emergency services too

Raghava M.

Vehicles belonging to the fire and ambulance services are often trapped in traffic

BANGALORE: Two years ago, a major fire broke out in a commercial complex near Kempegowda bus terminus. Some 23 fire fighting vehicles were raced to the spot.

What they made up for enthusiasm was offset by the lack of a fundamental tool — water.

Finally, it took the generosity of the railways and a big restaurant nearby to come up the supply, saving precious time and property.

This incident is cited as an instance by the Bangalore Urban District Disaster Management Cell of the use of available resources and manpower to tackle emergencies. The Cell, headed by Deputy Commissioner M.A. Sadiq, is working out ways in which different government agencies, hospitals and people can coordinate in handling disasters.

“You cannot change in the available infrastructure much and control the increase in the number of vehicles. Disasters management have to be worked out by systematically tackling the bottlenecks by involving as many departments and people in the task,” said K.K. Pradeep, Liaison Officer of the District Disaster Management Cell.

The Cell will coordinate with 17 departments, including Fire and Emergency Services, Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike, Bangalore City Police, Bangalore Electricity Supply Company Ltd, Department of Health and Family Welfare, Department of Medical Education and Defence. It will also have a list of region-wise hospitals and ambulances. The Cell will be fully functional from January 15, 2008.

The increasing number of infrastructure projects has not improved the emergency services, particularly ambulances and fire engines. The distressing sight of fire engines and ambulances, stuck in the traffic jam, their sirens wailing, is common. “Our vehicles find it difficult to reach the place of disaster in time,” said a senior official from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

For instance, reaching a fire engine from the Mayo Hall service station to a place near Koramangala Indoor Station takes about 20 minutes at night time when the traffic is less.

“But it takes nearly an hour during peak hours. There is hardly any space left for our vehicles to move,” the official said. It is difficult to get clear roads for emergencies similar to what the VVIPs get. “It’s not a planned event,” he added.

Taking the delay into consideration, the fire and emergency services usually send two fire tenders each from different routes to the spot, the official revealed.

Similar is the problem for the ambulances. Having reached the patient, the drivers are not sure of which hospital to rush them to and what route to take.

In order to tackle the problems, Mr. Sadiq has decided to specify the tasks to be carried out by each of the government agencies.

While the Fire Services will be involved in putting out the fire, BESCOM will told to cut off the electricity supply to the site of the blaze, BBMP will help provide access to buildings and police to regulate the traffic and maintain law and order.

“We want police to divert traffic from the emergency site to avoid piling up of vehicles,” Mr. Pradeep said. The city police will be trained in handling emergencies and will be made aware of what disasters are,” he added.


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