The 8th October always remind us a tragic disaster occurred ten years ago, an earthquake of 7.6 magnitude hit Pakistan and Kashmir perished nearly 90,000 lives and uprooted 3 million people. It does not stop there, five years later in 2010 Pakistan faced another unprecedented catastrophe flood that affected almost 20 million people and inflicted an estimated loss of Rs 855 billion. Since 2010 each year floods have been hitting the country enormously. The government of Pakistan has declared it National Disaster Awareness Day to sensitize community to learn from disasters and play its role as socially responsible citizens.

Although all disasters had huge effects on many precious human lives, infrastructures and economic condition, they also give us opportunity to prepare ourselves to cope with them in a better way. Communities in all emergencies and disaster are the real sufferers and first responders as well. Lay people in communities have no choice except to wait for professional response by trained rescuers. The government established Emergency Service Rescue 1122 to deal with all kinds of emergencies.

This was a positive step towards addressing the main component of disaster known as response. Rescue 1122 is an emergency management system which provides sense of safety to the citizens by providing immediate response in all emergencies and rescuing over 3.6 million victims of emergencies. Besides that the service has maintained its average response time of less than 7 minutes. This positive initiative has been replicated in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. The provincial governments are replicating this system in their provinces according to their priorities.

A well disaster oriented community make better plans of preparedness, rehearse those plans in peace time resulting to minimise deaths and disabilities in case disaster and lessen the impact of that disaster. The disaster sensitised community can play vital role for the first 24 hrs to 72 hrs. This is the time when community help can create difference by dealing victims with professional approach. Disaster 2005 is full of the examples related community participation from initial response to the different phases of disaster like recovery and rehabilitation. Many victims have been rescued by community first responders, but unfortunate part was that nonprofessional handling of victims lead to deaths and disability. There was no doubt about the positive intentions of first responders from community but lack of awareness and training related evacuation of trauma injured victims caused such damages.

I believe everybody is an asset for the country, everybody can create difference. Try to make your life more meaningful, there is possibility that you could save a life or somebody could be a life saver due to your life saving trainings. All willing people can join platform like Rescue 1122 Safety and Training Wing, get trainings on basic life support, first aid, fire safety, rescue techniques and evacuation planning and exercise etc with aims to enhance existing community response.

—The writer is emergency officer of Rescue 1122.