The Punjab Emergency Service (Rescue 1122) has completed 15 years of serving humanity across the province and saved more than 7.5 million lives. It also established services of ambulance, rescue and fire services, and community emergency response teams in 36 districts.

The launch of Rescue 1122 was necessitated after failure of repeated attempts to revitalize and modernize the existing organisations mandated for the purpose. Having political ownership and backing of then Chief Minister Ch Parvez Elahi, Dr Rizwan Naseer started the service that has now emerged as the emergency humanitarian service of Pakistan. It is providing technical and training assistance to other provinces as well.

The Punjab Emergency Service Act was also promulgated in 2006 to provide legal cover to the emergency services reforms initiated in 2004 from Lahore.

It not only provides emergency care in time but believes in “Saving Lives and Changing Minds” – vividly reflected in its mission statement that is “Development of Safer Communities through Establishment of an Effective System for Emergency Preparedness, Response and Prevention”.

It was a unique initiative of serving humanity without any discrimination, making every government own it. The efforts of founder Director General Dr Rizwan and his team for such a noble cause will be remembered forever.

The successful setup in the provincial capital, Lahore, followed the establishment of emergency management system in Rawalpindi, Faisalabad and other districts across Punjab. The core team, including officers from headquarters, academy and districts for training 18,000 rescuers deserves appreciations for the completing the mission successfully. The crew gathered prayers with hard work, commitment and dedication. Another initiative like establishment of modern fire rescue service led to timely response and professional firefighting to 136,000 incidents in 15 years and averted loss of billions. All officers are grateful for contribution of Governor Ch Sarwar and Scottish parliamentarian Mr Hanzala Malik for establishing the modern fire service in Pakistan and training of rescue officers from the UK Fire Service.

Hats off to 19 rescuers who embraced martyrdom in a rescue operation at the Ghakkar plaza fire in Rawalpindi. The government presented Gallantry Award to four martyrs.

The Emergency Services Academy is now imparting training to emergency officials of Punjab as well as other provinces in emergency medical training, firefighting, fire prevention and investigation, urban search and rescue, high angle rescue, confined space rescue, water rescue and other emergency management skills. The academy has trained over 18,000 rescuers for Punjab, KP, GB, Balochistan and AJK so far. It conducted eight national rescue competitions to improve coordination and ensure uniform standards of emergency services in the country. Also, the academy conducted Saarc Rescue Challenge.

The Motorbike Ambulance Service at the divisional headquarters level has reduced the average response time to four minutes, which is an achievement even internationally.

Rescue 1122 provided patient transfer service to over 580,000 critical patients. It is implementing Community Safety Programme, which includes capacity-building of community emergency response teams, school safety programme, training of citizens in lifesaving skills and collaboration with chambers of commerce and industry for fire and work safety. Also, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) have been formed in all union councils of Punjab and 800,000 community first-aiders have been trained. National CERT competitions were organised twice to give an opportunity to volunteers to exhibit their disaster response skills.

Pakistan has significantly enhanced its capacity to deal with emergencies as compared to 2004 and now rescue teams are well-tested and well-organised to respond to any calamity. In 2019, a 12-member rescue contingent helped pilgrims perform Hajj in an organised manner.

It became the first team in Saarc countries to register with the UN - International Search and Rescue Advisory Group. The service appreciates UN-INSARAG for mentoring search and rescue experts from different countries. Besides, the role of UN-OCHA, National Disaster Management Authority and the governments of Punjab and Pakistan in this journey was highly commendable.

The journey, which started in Lahore in 2004, is still continuing and the team is now registered with UN-INSARAG. This would result in global networking and recognition for the country. May Allah give us all strength to maintain standard of service, serve humanity and achieve international certification.

 

–The writer is liaison officer, Pakistan Rescue Team.