Poor response to emergencies

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Hardly any day passes without horrifying tales of fire outbreaks, flood disasters, road crashes, robbery incidents etc. We recall that petrol tankers fell at two different places in Lagos State last month. One of these incidents which happened along Lagos Ibadan Express way took many lives. The flood disasters which occurred at Ogun, Katsina and Delta States recently, again took many lives. Some of those who eventually died in hospitals could have been saved if the agencies charged with rapid response to such situations did their jobs. A better response culture would have made a difference.

The way and manner government agencies like the Fire Service Department, Police, Army, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and Hospital Ambulance Services respond to such emergencies leaves much to be desired. Experience shows that their failure to perform arises mainly from some major factors namely: poor equipment and inadequate training for the emergency team.

The general attitude of these agencies to distress calls and emergency situations is indicative of our lack of value for human life. There is a tendency of some people to think that when it is not happening at their doorstep, it does not affect them forgetting that it could be anyone’s turn the next day.

Often, it takes these agencies too long to gear up, with the result that they arrive too late to the scene of the incident. When they eventually arrive, it is discovered that some of the relevant tools needed to rescue the situation are lacking or that the personnel, who are supposed to be experts in their field, are not adequately trained to do the needful. In the case of a robbery incident, after receiving the distress call from the victim, where the police pick the call at all, they often reply that their patrol van is not in good condition, while Fire Fighters complain of lack of water in the fire fighting van or broken down vehicles. Some fire fighters even seem to be scared of the scene, unlike their counterparts in developing world who would rush into the fire engine as soon as they receive the alarm. Many lives that could have been saved are lost due to such delays. Again, the dilapidated condition of many of our roads impedes fast movement of rescue vehicles.

We believe that the watchword in emergency situations is, “Be prepared.”

To guarantee preparedness for rapid response to emergency at all times, there is need to carry out regular simulated exercises, aimed at testing the preparedness of all the agencies concerned. The supervisory bodies to these functionaries must ensure their readiness in terms of personnel and equipment. Equipment and training must measure up to international standards. Only in this way can we put an end to our country’s poor response to emergencies.