By Adedoyin Adewumi
Disasters strike at any time. Most disasters are not preventable, especially natural disasters, but in both natural and man-induced disasters, there is an utmost need to manage them when they occur in order to reduce the incidence of fatalities and loss of properties. The key to this management is people.
Emergency responders have staff that are paid to carry out their duties in responding to disasters, rescuing and providing relief materials to victims. Even though there are staff, the need for volunteers cannot be overemphasized. Volunteers/volunteering is a key aspect in disaster management in all countries. Volunteers are people who are willing to expend their time and effort in helping out in times of emergencies. In one way or the other, people have become impromptu responders, most especially in cases of accidents, building collapse, fires, etc, in a bid to help get victims to safety and getting them medical help.
Despite the challenges in emergency response, emergency management volunteering is being encouraged through free training, workshop and the provision of kits emergency management outfits.
Training and capacity building are essential in equipping the volunteers to be prepared for the response in emergency situations. Like emergency rescuers, volunteers, with adequate training could assist, for instance, victims of road accidents and fire from health hazards. But with basic training, in First Aid for instance, volunteers can also be more efficient in the rescue process and also educate others in return.
Volunteers can be called upon at any time, but this is subject to their availability and nearness to the disaster scene, unlike the staff of the agency that are at the beck and call of disaster occurrences. This is why it is important that in a country like ours, people can register to volunteer in ward, community, local government in order to increase efficiency and response in cases of disasters.
The National Emergency Management Agency(NEMA) knows the import of volunteers and therefore has set up many platforms to encourage participation in this salient emergency response activities. Disaster is everyone’s business and the more awareness created about it, the better for the country in the long run. Knowledge and information are key in this business and the need to get as many people informed is paramount, and this can be done through the education of volunteers in what is expected of them.
The platforms through which NEMA engages the use of volunteers spreads through all strata of class as it makes use of both the youths, the professionals and non-professionals as well. The platforms include Executive Volunteers Against Disaster; Grassroots Emergency Vanguard; National Youths Service Corps(NYSC) Emergency Vanguard; Disaster Risk Reduction Club; School Basic Emergency Response Team; Journalists Against Disaster initiative; Youths Against Disaster Initiative and Community Resilience Network and Peace Brigade, which the Agency planned to set up in all the geo-political zones and not only them, but local governments and the communities within them also.
A well-motivated volunteer programme can boost NEMA’s capacity for effective and efficient disaster risk reduction as well as search and rescue operation across the country. How much easier the work of NEMA staff would be if they had trained volunteers who also know the terrain of the communities they are responding in? The programme also improves the capacity of preparedness, prevention, response and resilience to disaster.
The Grassroots Emergency Management Volunteers Corps for instance has attracted about 10,000 volunteers spread across 23 states in the country. There is a need for the volunteers also to be aware of the nature and management of disasters, which would lead to better performance in disaster preparedness, mitigation advocacy and response.
Be a volunteer today, you may save the lives of others, and yours tomorrow.
Youths Against Disaster Initiative