THRISSUR: As the state government embarks on a Herculean task of rebuilding Kerala after the deluge, the concept of a State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) deserves fair attention.As per the National Disaster Management Authority policy, every state should have an SDRF, which will be the first responder during disasters. However, in Kerala, the proposal remains on paper. During the recent floods, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) quickly came to the aid of people affected by landslides in Kattippara.
“If there is an active SDRF team in the state, it will definitely speed up rescue activities,” said NDRF deputy commandant (operations) G Vijayan. Strengthening the SDRF with a proper force and infrastructure will help the state in dealing with tough situations in future, he said.As per the NDRF guidelines, a battalion of the force will have about 1,146 members, who can be deployed anywhere in the state as the first respondents.
“When we say a battalion, it also includes equipment for rescue activities,” said Vijayan, who has been leading the team in various rescue operations across the country. After the 2015 flood in Chennai, Tamil Nadu created a special police wing and trained its members to tackle similar disasters. “The training of the third batch of the wing has already been completed. They have also started purchasing equipment such as boats, life jackets etc,” he said.
Even though police and fire and rescue officers in Kerala are being trained by the NDRF for similar missions, it may not be enough when big disasters unfold again. “It is true that such grave calamities happen only once in a while, but with the help of a trained force, we can create awareness among the public on how to act during such crisis,” said Vijayan, adding that state’s policymakers have to decide on whether to strengthen the SDRF or not. Odisha has a well-trained special force to deal with such disasters as cyclones and floods are frequent there.
Right now, there is only one NDRF team in Kerala - the 46 members at the Regional Response Centre in Thrissur, who rushed to the aid of Kattipara during the landslides.As the responsibilities of the force are not confined to rescue operations, it can be used for rebuilding as well.