First Medical Responders programme was piloted in 2011 in the State of Uttarakhand and later extended to 18 most disaster-prone districts of India. The name of the programme was changed from First Medical Responders (FMR) to Social & Emergency Response Volunteers (SERV). Currently, it has presence in the following states: Andaman and Nicobar, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The SERVs have been able to demonstrate their volunteering services in the recent disasters in Uttarakhand floods, J&K floods, Odisha cyclone Phailin, Tamil Nadu floods, Kerala floods and several other interventions. The volunteers worked closely with the local administration to provide search and rescue services and also distributed relief material and provided shelter to the people affected by the disasters.
India is one of the highly prone nations which is vulnerable to almost all types of disasters. There is a paradigm shift all over the world including India, from response centric approach to a holistic approach with focus on prevention, mitigation and preparedness. It is not possible to prevent all disasters, but it is certainly possible to undertake preventive measures and prepare the community to mitigate the impact disasters. IRCS has undertaken a series of measures to achieve its objectives. There are a number of projects and programmes which are being implemented through various state and district branches. These projects and programmes are either funded by national headquarters or by other donors. However, the size and scale of these programmes are limited. Some of these programmes are going on for quite some time and have established their usefulness. Therefore, in order to build resilience in the community and to make an impact it is felt that while the existing programmes may continue. IRCS NHQ should focus on one project and implement it in a big way.
It is in this context that SERV is proposed to be implemented in all the state branches in a big way. SERV is an important initiative in many different ways. This programme ensures direct linkages of IRCS with the communities as the volunteers are selected from their own communities. The volunteers trained from within the community are available to provide immediate support in golden hours till the formal response agencies reach. This has been evident during various disasters/emergencies in recent past where SERVs were able to demonstrate their usefulness. Programme also helps in strengthening relations with the local government departments and other stakeholders.
Concept of SERV:
The concept of SERV is premised upon the principles of Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction (CBDRR). It recognizes that:
1. Communities understands their problems and opportunities than anyone else,
2. Community is more interested to understand their problems than anyone else,
3. Community is the key stakeholder for development of the country, hence it has to participate for their own development,
4. Local communities are capable of initiating and sustaining their own community development.
To contribute to this aim, SERV volunteers will:
1. Provide immediate relief and response to the affected communities before additional support from the government and other agencies arrives,
2. Reduce vulnerabilities of the communities by training the communities on first-aid, hygiene promotion, etc.,
3. Conduct vulnerability and capacity assessment of their own communities,
4. Support any other identified social issues that contribute to the development of the communities.
It is envisaged that the SERVs will be trained as per prescribed modules pertaining to deliver the following:
- Act as First Responders in times of emergencies, (participate in providing effective humanitarian services to affected population to prevent and alleviate their sufferings on behalf of the IRCS)
- Sensitize the community to make them more resilient to disasters to which the community is vulnerable.
- Facilitate linkages between the community and the Government programmes.
It is proposed to build communities’ resilience through upscaling of SERV on pan India basis. The programme is to be funded by NHQ and state branches in the ratio of 80:20 to target training of at least 1000 volunteers in each District through following approach:
- Focus on Youth Red Cross volunteers through enrollment in colleges as SERV.
- The college premises may be used as venue for YRCs (college students to be offered tea and snacks).
- Certification by the State Branches.
- The training can be divided into first half/second half covering the curricula as per the convenience and attendance of students in college.
- Every State should have at least 01 Master Trainer.
- Existing Master Trainers to create Master Trainers in neighboring States. For this, the training of Master Trainers proposed zone wise - North East (Assam), East (West Bengal), West (Gujarat), North (Uttarakhand) and South (Tamil Nadu).
- Each Master Trainer will organize one or more training for Instructors in his/ her State.
- Each District to have SERV instructors.
- Database of SERV volunteers to be created and maintained at District, State and National Headquarter level. WhatsApp groups to respond to emergencies.
- First Aid Kit can be given to communities.
- Format of the certificate to be shared with states but RC volunteers to be part of mock drills in states with the administration.
- Master Trainers with 04 days of First Aid Training and 02 days of Disaster concepts
- Instructors with 03 days of First Aid training and 02 days of DM Concepts
- Volunteers' training with 02 days of First Aid and 01 Day of DM Concepts
- Indian First Aid Manual - 2016 (7th edition)