Stakeholders in the sector have stressed the need to equip the larger population with knowledge and skills to enhance proper intervention in time and situations of need. WINIFRED OGBEBO reports.
What is an emergency?” the deputy head of the Israeli High Commission, George Deek asked the people inside the hall.
According to him, while fielding questions from some of his Nigerian friends, the popular answers were ethnic clashes in the North, politically motivated violence in the South, kidnapping and arson.
But he said, the most popular one was a little bit surprising to him - bomb blast-terrorism.
At a one-day partnership forum, media briefing and discussion on enhancing emergency response and ambulance services in Nigeria using the Israeli model, last week in Abuja, Deek said that countering terrorism has two main elements: one is to prevent terrorist attacks from occurring and the other is to mitigate the effects of terrorist attacks once they have occurred.
He said to mitigate the effects of terrorism, the authorities and the public need to be prepared to respond and recover from the possible consequences of terrorism-related catastrophes.
“ Actual loss of human life and injuries caused by terrorism amount to only a small share of death and injury and injury caused by other factors such as traffic accidents, natural disasters, diseases and wars. The psychological impact of terrorist attacks, on the other hand, often outweighs the impact of material damage and bodily harm caused by such incidents.”
According to him, a quick and efficient response to a terrorist event can achieve two main goals: “The first and direct goal is to get in control of the situation, provide medical assistance, reduce the number of casualties, secure the area, clean up the scene of the event and remove any further danger - and all that in a minimal time frame.”
He said, “Take for example, the suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem on January 1, 2004. The terrorist walked into a bus full of innocent civilians, including little children and old people, heading to school and to work. At 8.50am exactly, he detonated the bomb that was strapped around his body in an event that lasted about 5-7 seconds.”
Deek gave the breakdown of the response activities to the incident as follows:
“At 8:51am, a first call from a bystander to the authorities is made. An emergency protocol is activated.
At 8:55am, five minutes after the event, the first units are at the scene.
At 8:58am, eight minutes after the event, eight ambulances arrive. Three minutes later, we had already 16 ambulances.
At 9:05am, we had already 28 ambulances at the scene, and the first evacuation is made, 15 minutes after the detonation.
At 9:17, the last casualty was evacuated. The tragic results of that attack were 13 people who died and 37 casualties. No doubt it was a very serious and tragic event. However, it took 27 minutes to completely evacuate the scene and the emergency protocol.”
In comparison, he said, after the nation’s October 1 attack, it took hours to get a hold on the situation and days after the attack, he added, “You could still see the two cars that exploded at the side of the road.”
According to him, the comparison only shows that Nigeria can learn a lot from Israeli experience and expertise, in order to significantly improve emergency response.
Speaking further, he said that if through emergency response, the casualties are minimal and quickly evacuated, if the authorities gain control on the situation as fast as possible and if instead of panic and fear, one has a sense of order and engagement of all authorities as well as the public, then the terrorists lose.
Speaking on the importance of paramedics, Mr Ike Willie-Nwobu said that paramedics are a major, critical and very essential need and support to healthcare and emergency preparedness and management response structures.
Willie-Nwobu, who is the managing director, Plus factor International Limited, noted that effective and efficient emergency preparedness and management has become a power index in tourism, integrated rural development, safety, security, education, sports, environment, national planning and construction.
But, he observed that paramedics are a major shortfall in the nation’s health care profile.
Therefore, to mitigate the effects of terrorist attacks through prompt response, the Israeli government has pledged its assistance towards training Nigerians on emergency management.
The envoy, while presenting a paper entitled The Israeli Model of Emergency Response as a Tool of Counter-Terrorism at the forum, stated that with the recent upsurge in cases of terrorism, post election violence, as well as reoccurring ethno-religious crises, it had become pertinent for Nigeria to prioritise the training of personnel in relevant agencies on emergency management.
He said the key elements of preparedness for effective emergency response are the police, emergency medical service, medical workforce cooperation between agencies of government and head of the emergency team.
While urging the Nigerian government to ensure adequate sensitisation of citizens on how to respond in emergency situations, he assured of the Israeli government’s readiness to partner with Nigeria to help her fight terrorism.
This came just as the managing director of Plus Factor International Limited announced that the joint venture training programmes, spearheaded by Israeli emergency response experts, would commence with the establishment of three paramedic colleges in November.
Speaking on the theme for the launch, Enhancing Emergency Response and Ambulance Service in Nigeria Using the Israeli Model, Willie-Nwobu argued that it was wrong for Nigeria to continue with the culture of acquiring ambulances without having the right kind of personnel to man them.
He said, “Ambulances or hospitals don’t save lives. An ambulance that is not operated by competent and skilled personnel is a waste of time and an embarrassment. Most of the time, we acquire ambulances first before giving attention to human capital development.”
He noted that the choice of Israel to train Nigerian paramedics was strategic, as the country has shown capacity and competence in the area of emergency preparedness and management over the years, adding that Israel’s teaching model lays more emphasis on vocational training as against focusing on theory.
“The major and most important reason for our joint venture is to expose our nation to Israeli capacity, competence and capability in emergency management. Israel is pioneering the establishment of schools of paramedics in Africa, using Nigeria as a major hub,” he said.
According to him, the major benefit is the link between an ambulance scheme and mobile/ field hospitals, which will create a new dimension of industry in the sub- sector, as a mobile/ field hospital would be assembled in Nigeria to be used for training, drill and simulation exercises.