It’s not earthquakes, bombings or floods alone that cause chaos; rather, the REAL DISASTER is our inability to educate ourselves and those around us on awareness; and our lack of readiness to prevent and prepare for these events!

This lack of preparedness has sadly been made evident time and time again with past and current events being proof of that! Whether it’s the deadly rioting that followed the (late) Benazir Bhutto’s assassination which sent Pakistan into complete state of panic and fear, the famous earthquake in 2005 that cost thousands of lives and  caused irreparable damages to property or the recent flooding that sent a large part of our country underwater.

The end result is that Pakistan, as a whole, is still trying to swim out of these sad tragedies and hoping that someone will throw in the safety tubes!

So why is it that we repeatedly fail to learn from these life-altering past occurrences? Why then, is OUR government not stepping up its efforts to creating awareness for its people on issues such as prevention, preparedness, response and recovery from these crises and emergencies?

Most importantly, why do we, the people of this nation, who are much larger than the government, not act on our own accordance to create this awareness and sense of survival within our beloved families and communities?

The cold, hard truth is this: There are no present or valid answers to any of these questions! Excuses, perhaps but what good does that do for anyone? Let’s face it, the real reason no one has presented any solutions is that the mindset remains,’It will NEVER happen to me.’

Throwing that mindset out of the window, the scary part is that we do live in a third world country and we’ve seen fatal or terrible situations involving our family members, our friends and our community. Statistically speaking, one day, this WILL happen to us!

Recently, I visited a local (and a very upscale) hospital in the Clifton/Defense area of Karachi. When you walk in the door, you’re greeted by a great and functioning interior, neatly uniformed staff of doctors and nurses and most importantly, a very clean and very sterile environment. If I had 10 thumbs, they would get all 10 of them for their presentation and services.

However, if you are like me, you look for accidents waiting to happen and check for any weak links in the chain to measure the amount of safety before entering a public location. This hospital, that obviously has spent a great deal of effort and money on  it spa-like appearance as well as its friendly environment, they have forgotten the number one feeling every patient wishes for when inside their hospital doors: Security and safety! They have left out the parts that ensure the facility is completely safe and well-equipped to fight disasters and the areas needed to train their staff on how to safely handle and operate equipment that is there in case of emergency.

As I was walking inside, I noticed a security guard sitting outside at his desk with his pump action rifle on the desk. That’s normal, right? But here’s where my inner alarm went off – his gun’s safety was off and pointing directly at my daughters face!

I’m sure all of you can relate on some level since this is something we all have seen, for example, when there is a police mobile driving in front of us and the cop’s weapons are pointed right at our gorgeous mugs but what made this scenario especially awful was that his fingers were drumming the weapon to some tune he was probably jamming to in his head.

After identifying myself as a Man of the Military (as well as a concerned father), I asked him for an explanation to his lack of common sense. The guard shot up to his feet and slung his weapon around him, much like they did in the old Westerns.

Problem solved, right? Not even close!

After 20 minutes I peeked out and saw that he was now sitting back down with his weapon on the desk while making small talk with a hospital driver, probably cussing me out.

Seeing this, I went to the Head of Security and informed him of this incident. Mr. Head of Security then went to chew the gunslinger out thinking that would solve the problem although I’m highly doubtful it did.

A few minutes later, as I made my way through the Emergency Unit to have my daughter checked out, I noticed that this particular unit had two men. One man, who was the cashier/administrator,  sat behind the counter and the other male nurse who probably weighed a few kgs more than my pint-sized, 40 kg wife does. Following these brutes, there were two female nurses and one on-call female doctor.

The point of taking staff inventory? Opposite of all of them, I noticed that they had an over sized, gigantic, water-based fire extinguisher mounted on the wall directly on the other side of the front desk. That may not sound so bad in itself but the real problem with this enormous extinguisher is that it was placed at least six and half-feet above the ground!

This means, in case there was ever an emergency that required the use of this monstrosity, there would not be anyone without superhuman powers that would be able to lift this extinguisher and operate it as fast as it should be – including me. Why is this? Because the fire extinguisher was too high up the wall and much too heavy for anyone to lift up without it falling down on top of them.

The general rule of thumb for placement of these water-based is that they must be mounted at or slightly above average knee level AND the type of fire extinguishers need to be able to support the types of fires that could possibly be ignited within the facility. Given that this was an Emergency Room (ER) located inside of the Hospital, an water-based extinguisher, no matter it’s size, would not help with the type of fire that would most commonly occur, due to the nature of this facility!

In order to fight the right fire with right tool, they need to supply their ER with the correct type of fire extinguisher first. For the types of fires that would be likely to occur in their unit, a medium-sized dry powder keg or CO2-based fire extinguisher would be the correct choice. If they’d like to go all out, they could have a combination of both that could be placed next to each – at the right height.

Going back to my original point, although hospitals are generally government buildings, they are left to non-government people to run. We, as citizens, need to speak up and fix errors we notice instead of just ignoring it and waiting for accidents to happen to us or others. Although not much appeared to be resolved when I challenged this security guard, I know that when he sees me now, he stands up and points his gun upward.  When I engaged in a conversation with the ER staff about their misplaced fire extinguisher, an alternate extinguisher was mounted on the right height the following day.

That is proof right there that one person CAN make a difference and if the citizens in this country work on this together, we can make one hell of a difference!

This post is written with the hopes of sparking YOUR interest in preparing yourselves, your families, communities and businesses. There are hundreds of free resources online that you can look up for help on what to do in emergency situations and it will probably take you half the time it takes to grow another set of crops on farmville!

Get your home and/or business surveyed for hazards and start putting an emergency plan together. Don’t know how? Drop me a line via the form below!

Stay well – Stay Safe!

N. Khan

Founder | Chief Consultant

AfterShock-CEM (Crisis & Emergency Management)

Upcoming Posts:

Important Steps to Being Better Prepared For A Disaster – Scheduled for 5th May, 2011. DATE REVISED