Deeba Shahnaz Akhter

The Punjab Emergency Service (Rescue 1122) which started on 14th October 2004, has completed 15 years of serving to humanity providing emergency services in all 36 districts of Punjab, and during this span of time, it rescued over 7.5 million emergency victims of different emergencies, established ambulance, rescue and fire services and community emergency response teams in all districts of Punjab.

History is evident that start of Rescue 1122 was necessitated after failure of repeated attempts to revitalise and modernise the old organisations mandated for emergency management. At that time, the service was started by Dr Rizwan Naseer with full political ownership and support of then Chief Minister Ch Pervaiz Elahi. Now the Punjab Emergency Service (Rescue 1122) is the leading emergency humanitarian service of Pakistan with infrastructure in all 36 districts of Punjab and is providing technical and training assistance to other provinces. The Punjab Emergency Service Act was also promulgated in 2006 to provide legal cover to the Emergency Services Reforms initiated in 2004 from Lahore.

Rescue 1122 is not just providing the emergency victims with the basic right to timely emergency care but believes in “saving lives and changing minds”. This is vividly reflected in the mission statement of the service which is “development of safer communities through establishment of an effective system for emergency preparedness, response and prevention.”

Now the Punjab Emergency Service (Rescue 1122) is the leading emergency humanitarian service of Pakistan and it was a unique initiative to serve humanity without any discrimination. This is the only reason that every government owned it and served the nation as the system of emergency management is self-explanatory due to its professional service delivery. The efforts of Founder Director General Dr Rizwan Naseer and his pioneer team, who burns their midnight oil to establish an exemplary model of emergency service in Punjab which has been replicated in other provinces of Pakistan, will always be remembered.

After the establishment of the service in Lahore, the emergency management system was established in Rawalpindi and Faisalabad and then across Punjab. Congrats to all Rescue Team including officers from Rescue Headquarters, Emergency Services Academy, district emergency officers and their teams for training of over 18,000 rescuers, providing services to over 7.5 million helpless victims of emergencies and disasters, maintaining the standards of this service and gaining prayers of the community members with hard work; commitment and dedication. The continuous journey of Rescue Service is full of struggle and new initiatives including establishment of modern Fire Rescue Service resulted in timely response and professional fire fighting to over 136,000 fire incidents during last 15 years and saved losses worth over Rs400 billion. All officers are grateful for the contribution of the Governor Punjab Ch Muhammad Sarwar, Hanzala Malik Scottish parliamentarian of that time for establishment of modern fire service in Pakistan and training of Rescue officers from UK Fire Service.

In the field of fire fighting, the fire fighters of Emergency Service Rawalpindi set an example of bravery, professionalism and serving humanity by sacrificing their lives during Ghakkar plaza fire and rescue disaster. Rescue Service always pays rich tribute to unsung heroes of the nation and salute to 19 Shaheed Rescuers and their valuable contribution in humanitarian organisation will always be remembered. Thanks to the Government of Pakistan for presenting Gallantry award to four Shaheed Rescuers of Ghakkar plaza operation. May Allah grant them high ranks in Jannat ul Firdoos. Ameen.

Besides, Emergency Services Academy has also been established now imparting training not only to the emergency officials of Punjab but also to other provinces of the country. The academy imparts training in the fields of emergency medical training, fire fighting, fire prevention and investigation, urban search and rescue, high angle rescue, confined space rescue, water rescue and other emergency management skills. This academy has trained over 18,000 rescuers for Punjab, KP, GB, Balochistan and AJK so far. The Rescue Academy has the honour of conducting eight national rescue challenge/competitions in order to improve coordination and ensure uniform standards of Emergency Services in the country. Besides, SAARC Rescue Challenge had also been conducted in the Academy. Rescue Team Rahim Yar Khan, Faisalabad, Gujranwala showed extra ordinary performance in different years to win the National Rescue Challenge and this year Khyber Pakhtunkhwa won the competition, whereas, district Rawalpindi remained at second position in year 2019 competition.

Another initiative, Motorbike Ambulance Service, started in all divisional headquarters has reduced the average response time to four minutes which is an achievement even internationally. Patient transfer services handed over to Rescue 1122 from health department have been provided to over 580,000 critical patients.

In order to establish safer communities, Rescue 1122 is implementing the Community Safety Programme, which includes capacity building of community emergency response teams, school safety programme, training of citizens in life saving skills and collaboration with Chamber of Commerce and Industries for fire and work safety. Accordingly, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) have also been established in all union councils of Punjab and 800,000 Community First Aiders have been trained across Punjab. The National CERTs competitions had also been organised twice to give opportunity to volunteers to exhibit their skills of disaster response. The first CERTs Challenge was won by District Chiniot and second was by district Layyah CERTs. It is also matter of honour that the now Pakistan have significantly enhanced capacity to deal with emergencies as compared to 2004 and now Rescue teams are well tested and well organised teams to respond to any calamity and mission. In year 2019, first ever Rescue contingent consisting of 12 members performed their duties in Saudi Arabia to facilitate pilgrims so that they could perform Hajj rituals in an organised manner.

Moreover, Punjab Emergency Service - Rescue Team became the first team in the SAARC Countries to be registered with United Nations - International Search and Rescue Advisory Group and now after hectic efforts, International Search and Rescue Expert gave a go ahead to Rescue Team for International External Classification in last week of October 2019. The Service highly acknowledges and appreciates the contribution of UN-INSARAG for providing the mentors, experts of search and rescue from different countries to make achieve the international standards. Besides that the role of UN-OCHA and National Disaster Management Authority and Government of Punjab and Pakistan in this journey is highly commendable and will also be part of rescue history.

The journey started from 2004 from historic city of Lahore still continues and team is registered at highest forum of search and rescue known as UN-INSARAG, which would result in form of global networking and unique recognition for the country. May Allah give strength to all of us to maintain the standard of service and serve humanity with same passion and achieve international certification. Ameen. –The writer is Liaison Officer

Pakistan Rescue Team