Saturday, January 9, 2010

Modern communication system for disaster management

When the terrorists had planted and exploded bombs in the commercial hub of Connaught Place on September 13, 2008, the civil administration officials who had rushed there were unable to converse with or even locate each other as their mobile phones were not functioning since the system had got jammed.

To avoid such a situation, the Delhi Government is now purchasing a Rs.100-crore Terrestrial Trunked Radio (Tetra) communication from HCL Infosystems and Motorola that would help establish the country’s first exclusive Government Radio Network (GRN) and also enable the civil administration to be better prepared for disaster management before the Commonwealth Games.

Since the Tetra network seeks to facilitate swift and secure communication among various government agencies like the Delhi Police, Fire Services, Hospitals, Public Works Department and the Delhi Transport Corporation, sources said the system would be of great help in any disaster management exercise should the need arise.

By providing an efficient and secure communication, the system would ensure that there are no breakages in communication, said a senior officer. With this, the civil officials would also get a dedicated system like their counterparts in the police.

This technological up-gradation assumes significance since the Delhi Government is also engaged in the preparation of a disaster management plan for the Commonwealth Games.

As part of the plan, various contingencies have been thought of and the response thereto has been decided.

In the New Delhi district, which houses 25 of the 176 vulnerable areas of Delhi – as made out in the color coded list of Delhi police – the administration has made a detailed disaster management plan. The district also has hotels in which a number of Games delegates and officials would be staying.

It is also home to six venues for the Games namely Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium (hockey), SPM Aquatic Centre (swimming and diving), Talkatora Stadium (boxing), and lawns of India Gate (archery), Pragati Maidan (logistics venue) and Shivaji Stadium (training venue).

Besides, natural calamities and disasters such as earthquakes, the disaster management plan is also drawn around contingencies such as violence and terrorism; fires; chemical, biological or atomic attacks; transport hazards such as metro railway breakdown; and service disruptions such as power failures.

To tackle any of these contingencies, the disaster management plan of the New Delhi district has pointed out, the deployment of various equipment such as fire hydrants and extinguishers that would be made. It has also listed the nearest fire stations and their numbers, how the volunteers and Delhi police would carry out crowd control and how along with Delhi Fire Service they would also carry out the evacuation.

As per the plan, the traffic management would be left to the traffic police that would also make use of the FM radio to make announcements to the public at large on avoiding disaster-hit areas.

The transport of victims would be the responsibility of the Transport Department and for this nodal officers and alternate nodal officers have been identified for every venue. In the police stations too, nodal officers have been identified for every given Games venue.

Then a health plan has been drawn up and it includes the number of personnel to be deployed at every venue as also the names of the nearest hospital or dispensary where the victims would be taken in the event of any disaster. The ambulance services and blood banks have also been made part of the plan.

The plan even goes into minute details like who in the civic agencies would be responsible for debris clearance at a given venue and who would be responsible for restoration of water supply.
Importantly, it also identifies the schools in the vicinity that would serve as “shelter homes” in the event of a disaster.