Localising Disaster Management

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In emergency response, localising disaster management has been a time-proven process that entails use of local responders embedded in communities, thereby ensuring faster response and in essence saving more lives and alleviating the suffering of victims. Keying into this, the South-west Zone of the National Emergency Management Agency has kicked off series of trainings for such local actors, writes Chiemelie Ezeobi

One of the challenges emergency responders always face is getting to the scene of any incident in record time. This is not anyway limited to only state emergency responders, as the federal body also battles this anomaly as the issue of timeliness and accessibility have been an impediment, especially for emergency workers.

In each emergency, responders- whether primary or secondary, there are phases of its management and they include mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. But one common factor that binds them all is- localising the management of the disaster.

In most cases, when emergency response is localised, the government acts as a buffer in such humanitarian crises but the local actors kick off response. This is because, when disaster strikes, local actors are often the first to respond before the emergency responders arrive.

Essentially, localising disaster management is the process of recognising and strengthening the leadership and the capacity of local civil society in humanitarian action, in order to better address the needs of people and to prepare local actors for any future disaster or humanitarian responses.

According to experts, the importance of identifying local actors in each community cannot be overemphasised, one of which is that it ensures
faster response, in essence saving more lives and alleviating the suffering of victims.

Another important factor is that such local actors are embedded within their communities and have the capacity to respond to the crises before the large scale intervention from emergency responders arrives. Also, given the wide range of acceptance by community members, it gives them better access to tackling disaster scenes.

NEMA’s Role in Disaster Management

Expectedly, each incident that happens always bring to the fore the need for speedy response from all emergency responders involved, especially the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), which is the parent body of all state and local level emergency agencies.

Thus, one of the issues always raised at emergency forums have always been on how NEMA and its state counterparts can efficiently overcome its usual search and rescue challenges that bedeviled it in the past. This is because the vision of the agency is building a culture of preparedness, prevention, response and community resilience to disaster in Nigeria; bearing in mind the critical aspect of its mandate.

It was in line with fulfilling the agency’s mandate that the Director General of NEMA, AVM Muhammadu Muhammed (Rtd), kickstarted several processes to ensure a holistic approach to emergency response, including training and re-training of staff, which in the long run has energised and boosted the morale of staff, and has reflected in the prompt responses to disasters since his assumption of office.

This specialised training of NEMA staff and stakeholders in various modern day techniques on disaster management is the first in the last six years,
Also, the life savings First Aid recertification which has been due since 2014 has been conducted. In Lagos, about 20 police officers from Disaster Management Unit, officers of Federal Fire Service, FAAN, LASEMA and FRSC are also being trained in the current phase while the next phase will include other critical stakeholders.

Localising Disaster Management
As part of measures to localise disaster management, the South-west NEMA Zonal office in Lagos recently held a training for local responders.
Tagged Training of Grassroot Emergency Volunteer Corps (GEVC), the gathering was organised by NEMA South-west Zonal Coordinator, Ibrahim Farinloye.

After the welcome address by Farinloye, the fire service did a physical demonstration on fire prevention and management, while the Ministry of Health educated on personal health and hygiene; the Red Cross taught Basic First Aid; and SAR handled casualty handling.

Afterwards in an interview with Farinloye, he said the essence of the series of training was because “there has been issues for the need for proactive disaster management and Nigeria has not imbibed that culture. But the current DG insisted that instead of us waiting for such disaster, we need to be adequately prepared to mitigate it. Also note that the United Nations has mandated all member states to embark on proactive measures.

“The first step is to mobilise local resources. These are the people who live in a community and know the challenges they are facing so they can easily find the risk. When they know these risks, it’s easier to mitigate it. When mobilised, we have to find out the risk, the traditional methods they have been employing and when we get these traditional methods, we will now imbibe the traditional methods in the modern method; equip and then empower them with all other materials.

“Like today, we are giving them a lot of things. This set mostly is from Mushin, Idi-Araba axis. They have problems of flooding and fire. Why do they have problems of flooding from Surulere, Oshodi? All the rain water from these sources goes through Idi-Araba Mushin and they have serious flooding usually. From that axis, it goes down down to Apapa, Ijora Badia. Most of the houses in Ijora Badia are submerged because of rainfall. We are trying to tackle the problem of Ijora Badia, Apapa axis from Mushin. We have been there. That was where we flagged off the flooding campaign. We have trained about 40 of Mushin people two weeks ago. Now, another 56 are being trained. The next set will be Oshodi and the Surulere axis. We intervene in those places with relief materials.

“These set are mainly to act as our agents of disaster management at the grassroot. The bottom up, before it gets to councillorship level, they have to handle it. Each of the tiers of local government has a responsibility in disaster management. So if one or two tiers are not doing the rightful thing, if the grassroot people are doing it, it will bridge a gap, then later local and state governments can bridge it. The cry of the DG is that we should imbibe disaster risk reduction. If you notice in Lagos, we have lesser disaster. When you have that disaster at all, you will see lesser casualty.”

On why residents resist help of emergency responders, Farinloye posted that with the emergence of grassroot emergency responders, that would be tackled because such local actors are known people in the community.

“These ones are just the point persons for their communities. They will go into their wards, to streets, and mobilise people within these areas. When the responders get there, they will be the ones to help, but not to attack. It’s a double sword not necessarily for when disaster occur. When disaster occurs, they are going to prevent disaster. The effect of their roles mitigate, allow, corporate and assist responders.

“Most times when we get there during fire incidents, they know the whereabouts of fire hydrants and other key areas in their communities. It’s one of the things we are teaching them. They usually get there before us and once we are alerted, we open a channel of communication with them while we are on our way.

“As part of measures in localising disaster management, we are providing first aid boxes. If there is a crash, the training they received is on how they can help instead of sending people to their early graves. With what they learnt, they can assist as a first aider to sustain that person until professional responders get there to rescue that person. Already, we have mobilised the trained ones, about 150 of them from Otedola bridge to Shagamu.”

Farinloye noted that the training is not only limited to fire, accidents or buildings disasters but also on steps to take in security issues. Citing the Mushin situation he said: “Like in Mushin, they have got eight secondary schools we will train. Like last year, they had four cases of kidnap of children from schools. This year, two children are still lost from Mushin. They were the ones that informed us of their situation when they came for training. We are working together, and we are empowering them. At a stage, the Red Cross will hands off. We are going to continue so that they can handle and train people on their own across the entire local government in Lagos.”

Frontline Disaster Management
Not limited to raising local actors as emergency vanguards, NEMA South-west Zonal office in collaboration with Nigeria Red Cross Society recently trained frontline disaster management officers.

The scope of the training covered principles of DR ABCD Recovery position, Non-breathing casualty (CPR/AED, choking), management of blood loss, management of burns, causes of unconsciousness, treatment of fractures (upper and lower body), scenario work on fracture, dislocation,sprain and strain, transportation of casualty.

Agencies that participated in the training are National Emergency Management Agency, Disaster Management unit, Lagos State Police command, Federal Fire Services, NEMA Grassroot Emergency Volunteers, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Federal Road Safety Corps.

According to Farinloye, the DG of NEMA, Air Vice Marshal Muhammadu Muhammad (Rtd.) observed some gaps within NEMA personnel and other stakeholders and deemed it fit that collaboration and ensuring personal safety of all the emergency responders is important as well as complying with the COVID- 19 protocols while they are trying to help victims.

Stating that the training was based on basic first aid certification and update, he added that it was necessary because emergency responders need to comply with the COVID-19 protocol while trying to help resuscitate a victim. “It was also meant to close the gaps between the emergency responders and people related to the victims while they are trying to give first aid to victims.”

“The multi-stakeholders training was necessary especially in Lagos State considering the occurrence of multiple incident of emergency outbreak and the fact that more personnel are needed to handle each incident simultaneously.“

Also, the Zonal Coordinator Lagos West office LASEMA, Mr Bisiriyu Kabiru, mentioned that as emergency responders, the training brought them up to speed on how to apply the COVID-19 protocols while trying to safe lives and properties.

Stating that one of the major challenges they face as emergency responders is the overwhelming attitude of crowd at the scene of the event, he urged the general public to allow immediate and free access to the professionals once they arrive the scene so they can manage the situation, save more lives and manage sustainability.

FRSC Staff Officer Operations, RC Edward.O. Dixon
appreciated NEMA for organising this multi-stakeholders training which will inturn make their work easier as regards to management of crowds and how to attend to victims when there is an incident.

Deputy PRO of Federal Fire Services, Lagos Command, Adebiyi Adekemi, stated that the training gave them opportunity to unlearn and relearn on how to tackle emergency in the area of first aid to victims while applying the COVID-19 protocol. She urged other agencies to emulate NEMA and organise more of this training inorder to build synergy among the emergency responders.

W/CSP Opadola.O. Elizabeth, officer in charge of Disaster Management Unit, Lagos State Police command appreciated NEMA for organising the training as it is essential for emergency responders as they collaborate to fight one common goal which is to make sure victims are out of danger, protect people’s property and make sure the environment is safe for people to live in.

She urged her officers to use the training resources learnt because it is expected that when they get to the scene of disasters, they use all the trainings they have gathered to assist in resusticating victims and prevent them from losing their lives.