GUWAHATI, April 7 – It is a wake-up call for thousands of parents and guardians in and around Guwahati city who send children to schools. An overwhelming majority of primary and Higher Secondary schools have never organised a single mock drill to train staff and students to respond to a fire, earthquake or other emergency situation.
“Less than ten schools in the city had organised emergency drills with support from trained personnel last year,” said a well-placed source in the State Fire Service Organisation, Assam. It is a worrying situation in the backdrop of the state being located in a highly seismic zone where an earthquake and fires induced by it can be expected any time. “The school managements should be aware of the risks faced by students and staff,” he added.
Several major fires have already taken place this year resulting in substantial property damage, but fortunately with no loss of lives in the city.
Sources in the SFSO, Assam and other agencies involved in emergency response revealed that even some elite schools do not have adequate human resource to respond appropriately in a planned and effective way in an emergency situation.
Many schools are yet to organize their first mock drill, and, consequently, students in those institutions do not have the most rudimentary knowledge about how to respond in case of fire or a natural disaster. Measures like evacuation routes and head counts are also non-existent.
According to experts, the situation is a matter of grave concern because students spend long hours in classrooms away from parents and guardians. Without properly trained staff to assist them, they become the most vulnerable group in case of a disaster.
It is said that in case of fire and earthquake, students – especially very young children – need to be acquainted with the fact that they need not panic, and have to strictly follow a few basic steps. Those steps would have to be repeated on regular intervals under supervision of trained teachers. In the absence of these, students continue to be at risk in most schools in and around the city.
Some of the schools are located in congested areas which provide difficult access to fire equipment and personnel. Many of them do not have adequate in-house firefighting equipment, while others occupy old buildings with ageing electrical fittings. All these have further added to the worries of the SFSO, Assam.