When in need, patrol cars double up as ambulances

Delhi Police have 650 patrol vans but only 10 ambulances

At least 50,000 people injured in accidents were taken to hospitals by the staff of police control room vans last year. It begs a big question — does this effect the main purpose of the unit, which is considered the backbone of police functioning?

PCR vans work as mobile police posts to give immediate help on getting distress calls from people. The staff, however, is often caught up in negotiating situations normally meant to be dealt by Delhi Fire Services and Centralised Accident and Trauma Services (CATS) personnel.

In October, two men were trapped in a burning car near Nehru Place. But thanks to the courage displayed by two constables, the occupants were pulled out of the car. Soon after the duo stepped out, the vehicle was completely destroyed. The policemen acted swiftly though they didn’t have proper firefighting equipment.

Similarly, a call was made to the PCR on November 20, informing that a boy was drowning on a patch of swampy land in Wazirabad. A team was immediately rushed to the spot and the boy was pulled out with the help of bamboo sticks used by a tent house.

The boy was shivering and in trauma, but due to absence of ambulance he was taken to the nearby Lok Noyak Hospital without medical aid.

Additional deputy commissioner of police (PCR) Satveer Singh says such situations do affect the functioning of patrol vans. But police also try to give immediate help to victims in the shortest possible time using the quickest means, he adds.

“The response of the PCR staff has always been phenomenal. As seen in a bomb blast last year, the PCR staff exhibited high sense of alertness and promptness in responding to calls,” says another senior officer.

“Just after the blast, 32 PCR vans rushed to the spot. They took all the injured persons to the nearest hospitals, and thus saved many lives,” the officer adds.

Fleet at a glance

Delhi Police have a fleet of some 650 patrol vans, 150 motorcycles and 10 tourist police vans — but only 10 ambulances.

Singh says more ambulances should be added to the fleet, or the efficiency of CATS should be improved. He says medical facilities in the vans may be upgraded and world-class firefighting equipment procured for convenience of victims.

The officer says police need at least 1,000 PCR vans to deal with an increasing number of distress calls. “Keeping pace with the response time of five minutes becomes difficult when vans get stuck attending to a particular situation. Our functioning won’t be affected if we have sufficient number of vehicles,” he says.

But police will be forced to work with around half the required number because the union finance ministry — as part of its austerity drive — has imposed a ban on purchase of vehicles for the department.

The order, issued in June 2012, also bars replacement of vehicles.

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