Need of the hour- Disaster Management

The Central Board of Secondary Education had introduced Disaster Management as a frontline curriculum for standard VIII from the academic year 2003 – 2004, IX from 2004 – 2005, and plan to introduce it in X in the next academic session. At that point it seemed nothing more than an additional burden to the already difficult curriculum. But in reality Disaster management training is not merely an academic subject but also an important life skill.

But why introduce Disaster management in education?

• India is prone to various hazards:

1. 70% of the cultivable area is prone to droughts
2. 60% to Earthquake
3. 12% to Floods and
4. 8% to Cyclones

• Lessons learnt shows that no Government and no state can take up the challenge alone.

• 34% of the total population of the country is of the school going age.

In today’s world of uncertainty and fear where disaster lurks behind every milestone, Disaster management training is gaining both relevance and importance.

When I say disaster I not only mean natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, cyclones, landslides floods and tsunamis but also day to day mishaps that occur around us, from road accidents to collapse of buildings and more recently the vicious terror attacks. The Kumbakonam school fire and the Russian school hostage siege are examples of disasters that have affected school going children. These events have increased our concern for preparing the future generation. Being equipped with the knowledge of how to react and what to do in these situations not only minimizes losses but also saves precious lives.

So what really is a part of this ‘life skill’ training? Basic concepts of first aid form an integral part. Further more architectural techniques and mechanisms that make buildings earthquake resistant and structural changes that can be made to grounded houses to reduce damage by landslides or floods are also included. The importance of efficient and alternative means of communication is probably the most vital component. In this respect, disaster management training aims to enable an individual to think clearly & rationally and act in an appropriate manner without letting panic or fear take over one’s senses.

But I believe there is a major flaw in the idea of the Government and the Central Board of Secondary Education in making it a primarily academic and theoretical subject, which leads to lack of enthusiasm in learning it and adopting it. The problem is the lack of practical knowledge.

When I talk of practical knowledge I do not mean technicalities like architectural transformations for this purpose. I am referring to First aid/ medical aid and an efficient means of communication among people. In most cases, massive loss of life and property can be limited by timely information of nature and extent of disaster. But since normal communication channels like telephones and mobile phones collapse, people are unable to spread the warning. Although we are taught that wireless radio systems are the key channel of communication in such situations, one seldom knows where to find these systems and more importantly how to use them. Same is in the case of immediate medical aid. While all the procedures are taught theoretically, when an urgent need arises the tangibility of the injury makes it difficult, for someone with no experience, to react suitably. Hence, although disaster management training is important and relevant, in its present form it is rather limited in practicality and uninformative.

What we really need to do is to change our approach and teaching methodology. It needs to be more practical and application based. Bookish class room lectures should be supplemented with adequate physical training. Only then would one be truly equipped to manage oneself and others in a disaster situation.

Thus in conclusion, although Disaster Management Training is a noble idea and a vital life skill it needs to be made a part of the academic system not just theoretically but also practically.
Aishwarya Padmanabhan
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