Our Readers' Opinions
February 8, 2011
We need a single emergency number to call in times of distress


Editor: There is an urgent and pressing need to implement a modern and synchronized emergency system throughout SVG. Whatever system that exists here has deteriorated so badly, that on a regular basis no one answers the 911 for Fire, Police and Coastguard emergency.{{more}}

There is an unusually long and odd 4561185 for medical emergency; when you dial it and eventually get an answer, you wonder why you dialled it in the first place. We have a situation where ambulances are parked at the homes of drivers when they are not at work. This, for a fact, happens in the rural communities. One time there was a medical emergency in the Mespo area and I was told we have to get the driver from home with the ambulance. Ambulances are used to transport nurses to and from work and fellow drivers at the end of a work shift. All these situations add up to a disaster waiting to happen.

The nurses should be given a one off 75 % duty free allowance on vehicles. Trained medical technicians or Paramedics should be operating the ambulances. No longer should an ambulance been operated by an individual who wants a job as a driver. We need the nurses in the health centers and clinics, not on the road in ambulances.

Emergency Technicians or Para medics could receive their initial training locally with the nurses, which should include driving skills and techniques also.

The International Standards operates with a central dispatcher who dispatches the appropriate emergency response promptly, upon receiving an emergency call. The local telecommunications providers will have to play a critical role in this regard.

In SVG, we have to dial two separate numbers for police and medical emergency. It’s too cumbersome, outdated and simply does not work. We need a single emergency number; instinctively when persons are in distress they will dial that number for help.

The Fire Department needs its own home and to be gradually expanded. It must be separated from the police. They should be undergoing training in simulating different fire scenarios, not sitting at the central police station opening gates. They need to go into the schools and communities to conduct fire prevention and safety programmes. The existing unit that’s there, once properly trained and motivated, will do an excellent job as a start.

The CWSA needs to be on board, so that the number of fire hydrants could increase gradually. They should start in Kingstown, and at strategic locations in the rural communities. The business community could be persuaded to fund a certain number of fire hydrants within the environs of their businesses.

Nobody seems to do any maintenance on the handful of fire hydrants around Kingstown. It looked so sloppy to see the firemen struggling to get a fire hose on a hydrant one Friday.

NEMO needs to player a stronger role in Disaster Management, other than Hurricanes. We have to initiate an educational programme which includes regular fire drills at Schools, Hospitals etc.

All these suggestions are in small segments; once these bits and pieces are implemented properly, with the necessary legislative and Educational framework, the system will mesh well.

It will be so refreshing and comforting, the day when we all could dial 911 for the ambulance, fire and police and get a prompt response. First responders must challenge themselves to respond within three minutes upon receipt of an emergency call.