Coping with a disaster

Coping with a disaster

Despite the fact that disaster managemet education finds room in school curriculum, most bangaloreans agree that as far as City colleges are concerned, it’s a glaring gap that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

Partly, this is because most institutes believe it’s a subject that students have been briefed upon at the school level. But this is a dangerous assumption to make and moreover, |it also means that students don’t have crisis management knowledge specific to their particular college — where the fire escapes are located, for instance, or where to find a fire extinguisher. As Abraham, a professor at Baldwin Women’s Methodist College puts it: “Disaster management education is the need of the hour but unfortunately, it’s a topic that’s seldom addressed as the college level, especially in degree institutes.”

At the most basic level, colleges are responsible for ensuring that the premises
is equipped with facilities to cater to any untoward accidents. “Many colleges do have fire extinguishers at every level but realistically speaking, how many of them keep a tab on their expiry date and replace them accordingly? The problem is that there’s no clearly-outlined system in place to handle disaster management. If there were, other such
issues — like fire-escapes on both sides of the building and notices on elevators that state they shouldn’t be used in case of an emergency — would be addressed as well,” says Abraham.

Apart from equipping buildings with such facilities, there’s another angle to the problem that has to be tackled: most students don’t have the slightest clue of what to do if confronted with a crisis. “Undergraduate students have some basic knowledge of disaster
management because it’s covered as part of their NSS or NCC sessions,” explains Payal, a student of Sambhram School of Management. “But post-graduate students aren’t always given that education. Of course, all of us have been instructed on the basics at the school
level. But it’s safer to have continuous sessions, so that we would brush up on that knowledge,” she adds.

“It would help to bring in external parties — such as those involved in the fire
services, for instance — to address the students as well. Such sessions could make a world of a difference,” adds Abraham. “The university could also make such a course mandatory. Apart from this, when inspecting colleges prior to granting them affiliation, the LIC (Local Inquiry Committee) should make it a point to ensure that the institute has systems in place to cope with a crisis.”

 A majority of students feel that adequate signage — such as plaques that detail steps to be taken in case of a disaster, warning notices in elevators and the like — will also make a difference. “Unfortunately, not all students take disaster-management sessions very seriously, even when they are conducted,” admits Raghav, who recently graduated.

“But if a college were to have enough signage put up around the premises — in prominent locations, where students are bound to see them on a daily basis — it would be a step in the right direction.”

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