The State government is likely to approve a Rs.8-crore proposal of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) to buy equipment to tackle disasters.

The SDRF, at a nascent stage, will receive a shot in the arm if the proposal, learnt to be with the Finance Department, gets the nod. The list of equipment included in the proposal has been shortlisted from a comprehensive list forwarded by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).

The NDRF list featured 310 pieces of equipment meant for fighting disasters. The equipment was categorised in to nuclear, biological, and chemical; collapsed structure search and rescue; medical; and water rescue and flood relief. Equipment included both high-value and low-value ones ranging from ratchet lever hoists of 1.5-tonne capacity that can be used for pulling, lifting, or bonding valued at Rs.23.69 lakh to common pliers valued at Rs.135.

“We have submitted a select list of about 200 pieces of equipment for the first phase purchase. The SDRF will be able to live up to its reputation and perform at least about 80 per cent of the work now being done by the NDRF at disaster sites,” C. Vijayakumar, Commandant of the Rapid Response and Rescue Force (RRRF) and nodal officer for SDRF, told The Hindu.

The SDRF, the formation of which was notified by the State government in October 2012, is presently being constituted by selected members deputed from the Disaster Response Team (DRT) and Quick Reaction Team (QRT) of the RRRF. Despite the lack of equipment, the SDRF has been doing commendable rescue work wherever possible besides ably assisting NDRF personnel roped in to fight major disasters.

For instance, a 30-member SDRF team deployed under the command of the Ernakulam Range Inspector General of Police K. Padmakumar was the one of the first rescue teams to reach Cheeyappara in Idukki district where flash floods and landslide wreaked havoc earlier this month.

Mr. Padmakumar was full of praise for the team, which he said, reached the spot by the afternoon and got down to search and rescue operations before the NDRF team reached late in the night. “The young team did laudable work despite the handicap of not having enough equipment. Plans are afoot to fully equip the force under the police modernisation programme,” Mr. Padmakumar said.

Besides actively participating in rescue operations, the SDRF members trained in assessing geographical and environmental patterns also spread awareness of the possibility of another similar landslip in the area. “The members tried their best in keeping the crowd away from the Cheeyappara waterfalls, which presented a clear risk of washing away boulders loosened after the loss of soil,” Mr. Vijayakumar said.

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