First responders must be the top priority

Last Sunday’s horrific Deogarh cable car accident and rescue operations by the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF), Indian Army, Indian Air Force and other agencies underscore the lack of capacity to deal with such accidents at the local level, particularly outside of India motherland. To improve the situation, a strong first responder network is needed for a quick response.

Deogarh had no operational and maintenance safety measures and a contingency plan in case of accident or mechanical failure. Without a system of first responders, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics, firefighters and police, the administration’s only option is to enlist NDRF or Army assistance as its first – and only – option. These agencies have the required expertise. However, the lack of first responders can cause delays. So in India their role is usually filled by locals who intervene before the cavalry arrives. This is evident in building collapses and train and road accidents, where they fill in until expert help is called to conduct search and rescue operations. This state of affairs is intolerable. The first responder presence ensures that local units can get to work without wasting time. They may be assisted by state and national agencies as needed. A robust network would build expertise that can be deployed locally, which in turn would create a system that could provide people with a critical service that can save lives – and not just in the event of major mishaps or disasters.

Accidents happen. Just like human error. For this reason, precautionary measures and emergency plans are in place. A country is judged by the value it places in the lives of its own citizens. India’s priority should be to minimize the loss of life in accidents. First responders must be the top priority

Russell Falcon

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