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Indian Red Cross Scales New Heights In Disaster Preparedness

"Although we can not control hazards, but we do have the ability to plan ahead and stop them from becoming disasters,” said S. Lawrence, a Red Cross volunteer from Tamil Nadu. "Planning ahead is the key and this National Disaster Response Team (NDRT-II) is a positive step forward, I feel lucky to be a part of such an initiative" he adds.


With the successful completion of National Disaster Response Team Training (NDRT-II) for its volunteers, the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) is closer than ever before to fulfilling its vision of becoming the leading humanitarian organization in India.


Forty participants from 16 states took part in the training program which was held at the IRCS Disaster Management Centre, New Delhii from 22nd to 26th May 2006.


Kaustubh Kukde, one of the members of NDRT-I and a training coordinator for NDRT-II said, “the National Disaster Response Team (NDRT-I) was established in July 2004 and has demonstrated its utility during its deployment in the Tsunami operation (2004), Maharashtra floods (2005), Tamil Nadu floods (2005) and J&K earthquake (2005)  as a rapid response assessment tool.” Kukde also expressed a point of concern when he noted that, volunteering being ‘non profit' suffers from a high attrition rate and therefore it is necessary that the IRCS train more volunteers through programmes like the NDRT- II. 


A shift in the approach of the Indian Red Cross Society towards disaster management is taking place. The organization recognizes the necessity to adopt a holistic approach to include disaster preparedness, prevention and mitigation. Setting up of State Disaster Response Teams (SDRTs) in the states of Gujarat, Orissa, Bihar and Maharashtra have helped the IRCS in strengthening their emergency response capabilities.


Highlighting the importance of the NDRT model, Chandrasekhar Rout, Federation Disaster Preparedness/Disaster Response Manager says that such a team has the capability to efficiently carry out of relief and response operations in neighbouring South Asian countries apart from responding to emergencies in India.


The idea behind NDRT is to have a specialized team of people from various sectors such as relief, health, logistics and reporting for immediate deployment in case of emergencies. Therefore during the field exercise the participants were imparted training in setting up of Rubb halls, tents, disaster health response unit (DHRU), water & sanitation unit and also how to handle telecom equipments in emergencies.

The interest generated by the NDRT-II training can be gauged from what participants had to say; Mr. Dalip Karad Dasarth, a lecturer from Maharashtra and a volunteer, said that he found the experience rewarding as he learned techniques that previously he had only heard about.


The training schedule for NDRT-II had been designed by disaster management experts from the IRCS national headquarters and the Federation. It was a comprehensive training program which included important topics related to Federation disaster response system, public health in emergencies, psycho-social counselling in emergencies, IRCS disaster response system and its capabilities, volunteer management in emergencies, standard operating procedure for NDRT and warehouse and logistic management of IRCS


An interesting component of the NDRT training  was the visit to a village for rapid assessment. Here the participants were divided into five teams and they had to prepare a rapid assessment report after interviewing the local people keeping in mind the sphere standards.


One of the youngest participants in the group, Ms. Stacey M. Passah from the Meghalaya State Red Cross branch said that she enjoyed the field exercise and gained greater knowledge of the IRCS and its strengths. Another participant, Professor Jhansi Singh, expressed that acquiring first hand experience from a range of experts will prove useful in the long run.


At the end of the training program Dr. S.P Agrawal, Secretary General, IRCS said that NDRT II was a new beginning for the Indian Red Cross Society. He also outlined the need to maintain the expertise of the IRCS in water and sanitation apart from strengthening the organization's commitment to disaster preparedness, blood safety and youth involvement in HIV.
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