Natural disasters have no friends or foes, with reports indicating that emerging economies in Asia, including India, are among the top 10 countries facing the greatest financial risk from natural disasters.
The most recent example, of >floods in Chennai , has also focussed attention on India and its share of major disasters. These include the floods in Kashmir (2014) and Uttarakhand (2013), the Latur earthquake (1993) and the Tsunami (2004).
“These are obvious examples that [show how] in times of crises, [a] little preparedness can go [a] long way in helping oneself and its concerns. In [the] golden hour, it’s the individual first who always step[s] in instantly when disasters strike. You have to remember that [the] extent of damage is too large and it may take some reasonable time [before] that help reaches to you. The golden rule is to be prepared. Ensure safety of self, family and then neighbours. Being prepared also guards you against extensive trauma and emotional stress which is very common when disaster strikes,” explains Anil Shekhawat, disaster management professional from National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).
“The extent of ill-preparedness in our country is such that most of us don’t even have a first-aid box at home,” he adds.
According to the National Disaster Management Authority, an emergency kit should have these essentials — a first-aid kit, a battery-operated torch, essential medicines, important documents, dry food items, water, money, cash, a set of thick ropes, candles and matches, and shoes.
While many citizens say that the bag may serve no purpose as one’s first instinct would be to try to fend for oneself rather than think of such an emergency bag and head out, those who are a part of disaster management teams say that if residents are prepared with such a bag, it could come in handy if the person is waiting for a rescue team. Having such a bag at home will induce one to be prepared and ready.
A. Subhaskar Reddy of the International Resource Development Centre, which helps prepare and conduct district disaster management plans, says that the kit would be useful especially in disaster-prone and vulnerable areas.
“People normally wait for governments or non-governmental organisations to come and rescue them. But it is important for each individual to be prepared as they are the first respondents,” he adds.
Lessons from Chennai
He also points out that some of our fishermen in the coastal areas are the ones always on guard and ready to face a disaster. “They usually have dry fish and basic supplies ready which could come in handy if disaster strikes.”
Santosh Kumar, an inspector with NDRF, and based in Bengaluru, has been among the 40 people from that city involved in rescue operations in Chennai since last week. He says that a majority of people were caught off guard and unprepared to face such a calamity.
“We were involved in rescue operations in Kotturpuram [a residential area in Chennai] and managed to save around 1,000 people so far. Many of the 70 to 80 households were waiting for rescue teams to arrive. Most people were anxious and wanted to get out of their homes which were flooded. It would have helped if they had mobilised some basic supplies so that they could fend for themselves for the next two or three days,” he says.
Explaining how a “go bag” would come in handy, Mr. Kumar says that when the NDRF teams went to rescue people, many had lost all their important documents, personnel belongings and did not even have a first-aid kit.
Mr. Reddy adds that a kit varies from disaster to disaster. Although these kits are not popular in India, they are in great demand in the West.