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We would like to say yes but unfortunately, we don’t think so!

Karachi at Night

Karachi, also known as the hub of Pakistan’s financial life line, has approximately 187,343,000 inhabitants spread over 3,527 km and is home to the only major sea port on which the nation entirely relies for its major import and export businesses. The problem here is that as important as Karachi is to Pakistan’s well being and growth, it has NOT prepared for a massive catastrophe, even after a history of similar natural disasters within the Country.

But let’s not even talk about Karachi as a whole; instead, let’s just talk about the Karachi shoreline and the areas around it that include (but are not limited to)  Kimari, Mai Kolachi, Clifton, Sea View and the Defense Housing Authority (DHA) that falls within instant striking distance of related sea hazards.

This part of Karachi is spread around roughly 70 km and is home to an estimated number of 900,000 people,  15,000  houses, 4000 apartment flats, roughly 8000 commercial establishments including offices, retailers, malls and restaurants. There are around an additional 2, 300 to 3,000 people that visit this part of Karachi on any given day of the week for either business or pleasure.

So now consider this, you have just dropped off your kids at school, left behind a wife and maybe parents, are on your way to work which could be on the other side of town.

All of the sudden, an earthquake that would measure anywhere from 6.0 to 9.0 on the Richter scale strikes and following immediately after, a giant tsunami crashing all around us just as it did Japan. You turn around to rush back for your family but there is no way you can get back over, because there is mass chaos and destruction. You try to reach your family by cell but the cellular network is down too!

The only question is ‘were YOU and your loved ones prepared for something like this?’ And only YOU can answer that question!

Isolated Victims moving to a shelter from Sendai School

Did you know that in one School hit by the Japan earthquake and tsunami, 77 students along with 10 teachers lost their lives as they were buried under rubble and water? One of the few students that survived was under the care of a teacher who had previous experience dealing with a tsunami and refused to listen to the school’s management and took his student to higher ground for safety.

Sadly, it takes one really bad experience for us to learn and maybe for some of us, one BAD experience is all WE will ever get.

We also witnessed a somewhat similar disaster in Pakistan when the northern part of the country was hit by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake in 2005 leaving countless damaged schools and hundreds of students buried alive! To make matters worse, the area’s emergency services were also paralyzed leaving quick emergency response very slow to come.

Is it then safe to say that there is a strange ignorance within us that makes us live in the moment and have no sense of pro-active prevention? While we know what has happened and could happen and what it would do to us and our loved ones?

Many of us are also the first to raise fingers and point them at anyone and everyone including  the government, police, military, Americans, Indians (some of you readers may find this amusing but a lot of us actually blamed Indians for the recent flooding crisis in Pakistan), religion, race, aliens, zombies and god knows whoever and whatever else we can find or think of but never once do we take it upon ourselves to fix what is wrong.

Instead of asking ourselves some important safety questions such as ‘what would I do if that was to happen to me and my family?’ and ‘do I know where the safest shelter is for me to keep myself and my family safe?’, we turn our minds to something else such as ‘should we go out for lunch at that new cafe?’, ‘I want to get a bigger plasma screen’ and ‘I want to get that new Toyota mark X!’

The only problem with this is, unless your Toyota Mark X can fly you out of this shoreline when the earth beneath you is cracking apart and a gigantic wave is chasing your tail, you might as well get a donkey that knows how to swim and give you CPR! At the end of the day, your ‘NEEDS’ should take priority instead of all the ‘WANTS’ piled up in your head.

Then again, I may just be wrong and it may just be that people here actually are aware of these hazards and have taken steps to prevent and prepare. To put these doubts to rest we conducted a Community Disaster Preparedness Survey on and around this Karachi shoreline, below are the results we found, they are unedited and presented here to give everyone an insight to just how prepared we really are!

  • 0 out of 10 people that reside on the Karachi shore know of any evacuation route(s) and where the safest area for shelter is in case of a natural or man–made disaster
  • 9 out of 10 people that reside on the Karachi shore do not know CPR or Emergency First Aid
  • 9 out of 10 people that reside on the Karachi shore do not have emergency first aid kits or fire extinguishers in their homes
  • 8 out of 10 people that reside on the Karachi shore do not have emergency savings funds for post disaster survival
  • 0 out of 10 people that reside on the Karachi shore have emergency supply kits in case of a disaster
  • 0 out of 10 people that reside on the Karachi shore know what to do if there was a natural disaster similar to Japan
  • 9 out of 10 schools that are on or within 5 kms of the Karachi shore do not conduct emergency drills for hazards such as fires and earthquakes
  • 0 out of 10 apartments that are on the Karachi shore have an Emergency Plan for their buildings/residents such as evacuation procedures, routes, etc. 3 out of 10 have fire extinguishers and out of the three, only 1 has staff trained in proper use of the device  
  • 1 out of 5 police posts or emergency stations that are on or within 5 kms the Karachi shore have life saving equipment but NONE have been trained in emergency life saving tactics/water rescue
  • 0 out of 3 hospitals within 5 kms of the Karachi shore have an emergency response plan for such disasters – upon inquiring why, the administrators simply had no reason!
  • 90% out of the people that were approached for this survey refused to participate because (while shopping or just hanging around) they did not have the time

Did you know that the 2005 earthquake that devastated our nation gave birth to ‘National Disaster Management Authority’ (NDMA) in 2007? NDMA’s mandate is “to manage complete spectrum of disasters by adopting a disaster risk reduction perspective in development planning at all levels, and through enhancing institutional capacities for disaster preparedness, response and recovery.”

However, after five years of existence and a few billions in funding, all they have been able to do for this small part of Karachi is train about half a dozen life guards (who are almost NEVER anywhere near the coast) and install three skull and bones hazard signs that do not tell the public JACK about what they are supposed to do in case of inclement weather. Although one Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) website does offer some good tips and advice for us to follow before, during and after a disaster, let’s give credit where its due!

Periodic NDMA and City District Government Karachi (CDGK) advertisements in the newspaper which are probably supposed to create awareness in the readers on preventive and responsive measures in case of natural hazards such as Cyclones, a great initiative but instead of useful tips and emergency do it yourself (DIY) procedures, the advertisements end up covering things such as:

  • Do not drink stale water                                       
  • Do not go outside in the rain
  • Wear rubber shoes/slippers in the rain
  • Do not let children go outside in the rain

Seriously? All this points to the fact that the wrong people have been put in the wrong seats, have been given responsibilities that are far beyond their expertise and are now clueless as to what to say and do to get the job done! As far as that website with one page of advice goes, great initiative but I am doing the same sitting with my laptop with $0 funding!

Now, I am sure that some of you will say and find comfort in the “Insha-Allah we will all be just fine” thought but just in case you are wrong and we are not fine.. Here is a list of things you can do to be better prepared!

  • Find out what threats and hazards you and your family are most exposed to and start preventing against them
  • Build an emergency shelter at home and/or find the nearest (and safest) shelter area and take a drive there to see how long it would take you to reach in heavy traffic
  • Get an Emergency Survival kit
  • Get a portable fire extinguisher (if you live in Karachi, a good place to buy one is Ebco at the Forum)
  • Start an emergency supplies cache (such as mineral water, canned food, nutrition bars, hygiene gear, etc) and do not use it for any other reason than a disaster
  • Make an emergency plan (get important documents such as property ownerships and insurance policies, a few cheques (otherwise known as checks), duplicate ATM and credit cards, updated contact list including friends, family, public health and safety as well as other NGO type emergency management resources available) and talk to someone outside your city on the possibility of you and your family moving in until the disaster has been controlled
  • Learn life-saving skills such as CPR, emergency first aid and basic fire fighting
  • Find out how to turn your electricity and gas off from the main lines (usually all you have to do is flip the big handle down)
  • Talk to your neighbors and ask them to join you in this effort (more can be done if this ends up being a collective effort)
  • Talk to your community government; in most cases a town nazim (administrator) would be the right first person to help you get what you need in order to set up an emergency management plan for the neighborhood – if you don’t get a good response, call us!

You do this and we guarantee you that you and your family will be ten times more prepared than the ones that don’t.. Having said this however, we understand that all this is easier said than done! You may not know who to contact for learning the skills or setting up an emergency management plan, in this case, check us out on the web and get in touch with us NOW!

We may not be able to help you get that brand new Toyota Mark X but will definitely help you prepare for a disaster!



Stay Well – Stay Safe!

N Khan

Founder | Chief Consultant
C: +92-341-2020-359
Skype: aftershock-cem