Country needs rescue coordination centre

Editorial

THE incident last month along the Sarawaget Ranges in Morobe indicates the need for the establishment of a Rescue Coordination Centre.
Fingers are now pointing as to who was supposed to have responded first when the alarm was raised on the missing people.
So the centre will primarily be the search and rescue facility staffed by supervisory personnel and equipped for coordinating and controlling search and rescue operations.
The turnaround for responses from disaster, medical or search teams has been appalling.
Rescue turnaround time or help arriving at any site can be less, if PNG had a fully, functional and operational rescue coordinating centre.
The centre would have had the services as diverse as the Fire Services, PNG Defence Force, PNG Royal Constabulary, National Maritime Safety Authority, National Road Safety Authority, AIC (Accident Investigation Commission) and Health Services among others thrown together in times of accidents, disaster and national emergencies to search, rescue and save lives.
At best these services exist in name only however lacking skilled manpower, essential equipment, and funds to carry out their fiduciary and humanitarian duties.
The coordination centre should also provide support to medical emergencies, maritime accident, bomb and security alerts on aircraft, tsunami and earthquakes and even search areas on request from land and water police.
Time and again bad accidents happening in-country have not been responded to by any competent or equipped party in the country. PNG needs an actionable coordination centre catering for all accidents is more beneficial than merely covering one sector.
The mv Rabaul Queen’s disaster at sea showed the lack of capacity and capability in country to rescue our own nationals lost in accidents at sea. The Madang PNG Air disaster among many others demonstrated the lack of capacity to respond to air disasters.
And the horrendous road traffic accidents where bodies and metal are enmeshed demanding expert rescue efforts to disentangle the mess indicate further lack of capacity in this area as well. A Britten Norman BN-2A Islander craft crushed into a ridge at Sarawaget Ranges in Morobe on Dec 23, 2017.
Rescuers arrived at the accident on Dec 27, four days later, and reported that the pilot, the sole occupant, was dead. They felled trees on the steep heavily timbered, densely vegetated slope about 20 metres from the wreckage and constructed a helipad.
All accidents and emergencies often require cooperation and coordination between the diverse agencies named earlier. Most have complementary or overlapping responsibilities.
A coordination centre of the sort discussed should have information as regards, terrain, seas, road conditions, weather, and tides at their fingertips.
It is already common knowledge that PNG is prone to natural disasters, earthquakes, drought, flooding and volcanic eruption which are inevitable.
Search and rescue, evacuation and other emergency procedures should be drummed out to the public in massive awareness campaigns all year long.
Our officials from the various stakeholders have rubbed shoulders with their colleagues from the other Apec economies during the meeting last year and PNG could adopt aspects from these economies and tailor to suit the countries setting.
This is one of the many positive aspects of hosting Apec which PNG as the host can gain from.
The whole issue requires a holistic approach and for this to be supported and funded by government so that we have the capability to launch sea, air, road, fire and natural disaster responses and search and rescue at a moment’s notice.

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