Jam Sajjad Hussain - The success story of Punjab Emergency Service (Rescue 1122) finds its roots in October, 2004 when a self-motivated trauma surgeon of Pakistan Dr. Rizwan Naseer, founder & former Director General, Rescue 1122 & current Secretary General, Pakistan Red Crescent Society, materialised his brainchild of launching a modern emergency service in Pakistan to provide basic right to timely emergency care to the ailing masses of Pakistan, earlier deprived from this right since long. The vision of launching this service was “safe communities where all citizens shall be provided the right to timely emergency response and care without discrimination” with mission of “establishment of an effective system for emergency preparedness, response, protection & prevention while contributing towards building socially responsible, healthy, resilient and safer communities.

In very start, the objectives were designed in fashion to provide the basic right to timely emergency care by providing quality emergency services as per international standards; undertaking research to recommend evidence based measures to related organisations for prevention of emergencies and to contribute towards establishment of socially responsible community emergency response teams through awareness, enrolment, training & organising volunteers for emergency preparedness, response & prevention.

This service received a huge response from the public and even from the government circles as well, resultantly, the incumbent Punjab Government expanded this service, after witnessing incessant sincere by the rescuers in this regard, to all 36 districts of Punjab and the expansion to tehsils is underway.

Dr Rizwan Naseer, flanked by his team, mostly the pioneers of Rescue 1122 Emergency Service and the current Director General, Punjab Emergency Service Brig. (Retd) Dr Arshad Zia left no stone unturned in ensuring the emergency services must be provided to all emergency victims without any discrimination of the poor or the rich. Now, the Rescue 1122 Services have managed over 1,159,667 road traffic crashes; responded to some 1,465,344 medical emergencies, dealt some 121,387 crime incidents, responded to 5,918 incidents of building collapses, managed some 6,904 drowning cases and responded to 70,232 fire incidents in all districts of Punjab and saved losses worth over Rs 185 billion through professional fire fighting on modern lines.

One may believe it or not, but now the citizens hit by dacoits or armed robbers call at emergency number “1122” in order to seek support from Rescue Services to avoid major loss, as they believe Rescue Emergency Ambulance reaches the incident spot within 7 minutes and the dacoits flee away after listening the siren or hooters. Truly, Rescue Services are available at mere a single phone call at “1122” in any district of Punjab with average response time of less than 7 minutes. You must remain hopeful that an emergency ambulance shall arrive to assist you whether you have been hit by a rashly driven vehicle, struck by any motorist, stuck in flaming house, trapped under heavy debris of building collapse, detained in house during floods or even the dengue affects you, a rescuer in green uniform equipped with all lifesaving equipment and tools, trained in lifesaving skills, and in proper turnout gear shall arrive to rescue you.

After witnessing such swift and motivated response by water rescue teams during 2010 floods, the Punjab Government notified Rescue 1122 as Disaster Response Force and assigned it the task of flood management.

Resultantly, Dr Rizwan Naseer, having national and international exposure of emergency management along with Brig. (Retd) Dr Arshad Zia trained and equipped the personnel of water rescue teams of Rescue 1122 so that they may respond more professionally to such incidents in future. Subsequently, Rescue 1122 responded with more preparedness and swiftly in upcoming floods like in 2012, 2014 and the recent passed 2015 floods in which Rescue 1122 alone provided emergency services to over 97,000 flood affectees from flood-prone districts of the Punjab.

Besides, providing emergency services, Rescue 1122 started observing and marking national and international days related to emergencies in order to create awareness amongst general public. October 8 is one of such days. This day is observed in remembrance of the Martyrs of October 8, 2005 earthquake in northern areas of Pakistan, which is up-till the greatest disaster in the history of this Islamic Democratic Republic of Pakistan. This day proved the most catastrophic day, leaving hundreds of lives lost and property worth billions of dollars reduced to debris and also exposed our level of preparedness to respond to such huge level of emergencies.

This day, we had to beg for international support in shape of rescuers and relief too. One may believe it or not, had we implemented the emergency reforms introduced by Dr Rizwan Naseer in 2002, we would have managed this earthquake without seeking any support from foreign states. But, all disasters pave way for opportunities. Resultantly, that day opened our eyes and we started preparing. The start of Rescue 1122 is fruitful results of such disasters of past.

The year 2015 is also significant because the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), PDMAs, Rescue 1122 and other stakeholders have made commitment to mark this day to express solidarity with the bereaved families, who lost their dear ones in earthquake and to create awareness for life safety among citizenry of Pakistan.