Various studies have explained that ‘Global Assessment Reports’ suggest that Disaster risks in urban areas are increasing rapidly and half of the world population lives in the cities.
The communities being sufferer and first responder in all disasters remained integral part of disaster management activities. Besides that community practices in disaster risk management are bottom up approach that takes more time to get desired results with reference to community resilience as compared to top-to-bottom approach.
Majority of emergencies can be prevented from turning into big disasters by Community Knowledge, Attitude and Practices (KAP) change. Furthermore, emergency sensitised and professionally trained community with latest knowledge, emergency management skills can play a vital role in emergency response, prevention of emergencies and promoting safety culture in their respective areas.
It does not end here; rather it further contributes for safer communities and sustainable development goals.
The community attitude knowledge and practices of low laying areas in district Rawalpindi have been explored during a research study to identify the community perception related disaster’s causes and effects, role of communities in preparedness, disaster risk management and suggestions to improve disaster risk management at community level. The highly vulnerable people due to flash flood in Leh Nullah, increasing heavy rains in monsoon season every year, geographical location of these communities and different social dynamics of urban areas such as haphazard infrastructure and further contributing factor poverty have been deeply explored to incorporate the voice of more vulnerable stakeholder of disaster. International practices with reference to the findings of study of Teti, Karishna focused on community based actions / practices which needs to consider issues related to community based disaster risk management through local development planning-meeting, planning and budgeting for risk management at community level, schemes for sustainable community based risk management institutionalization and creating independency by empowering local community institutions, providing resources and knowledge within the community.
Keeping in view the above, one of the best practice in Pakistan is the establishment of Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) through Rescue Mohafiz Program at local level by Punjab Emergency Service as per provision in Punjab Emergency Service Act 2006. This CERTs- Rescue Mohafizs are being enrolled, registered and trained through Mohafiz application or directly approaching to Community Safety Wings of Emergency Services in all districts of Punjab.
The trained CERTs further contribute in launching campaigns for Knowledge, Attitude and Practices (KAP) change to establish sustainable, healthy, resilient and more prosperous communities in Pakistan. In this way community volunteers have been institutionalized and linked with the Emergency Service. All CERTs –Rescue Mohafiz get training on internationally standardized training course Community Action for Disaster Response (CADRE) which includes skills related to First Aid and Basic Life Support, Incident Command System and Triage, Dead Body Management, Fire Emergencies, Basic Search and Rescue, Water Emergencies etc. The Founder Director General Punjab Emergency Service Dr Rizwan Naseer, S.I initiated Rescue Mohafiz Program in accordance to the vision of Chief Minister Punjab to enhance professional capacity of community at local level so that everybody can be able to positively contribute for Safer Pakistan.
The initiative taken by the Emergency Service will definitely be fruitful for our generations as study conducted at low laying area of Rawalpindi found that communities are playing their role as per their capacities and majority think that disaster risk management is the responsibility of the government as government has enough capacities and resources to deal with it.
Lack of awareness and unavailability of organized community based system related disaster risk management has been highlighted by all stakeholders.
It was learnt from the detailed study that community actions/practices can resolve some of the causes of flood disaster especially like encroachment at low laying area, dumping waste in Leh Nullah, careless attitude towards cleanliness of tributaries and dykes by avoiding damping plastic bags etc.
Community participation is visible in case of disaster response but this strength can be used for enhancing preparedness level of community leads to disaster risk management. Community resilience is also dependent upon mass awareness campaigns, incorporating disaster related education in curriculum from primary level in government institutions, using community based approach for awareness, training, knowledge related to disaster management with linked efforts or proper institutionalization to concerned authorities by using organized communication system between communities, local government and NGO’s. Let’s make a commitment for contributing towards prevention of emergencies and promoting Safety Culture in Pakistan.
Akhtar, Shahnaz. KAP matters in disaster risk management. The Nation, July 16, 2017.