The snow-covered hills of Muree, in the Punjab province of Pakistan, is a popular scenic destination during the Winter. When heavy snowfall hit the area on January 8th, Pakistan’s popular hill lookout point and the plaza were declared a disaster zone as thousands of people became stranded in their cars.
A group of Pakistani students from the certificate course in Disaster Management and Emergency Planning joined the rescuers from the Network for Human & Social Development (NHSD) and the Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) to bring relief and help evacuate passengers. Working alongside various relief agencies, the NHSC students also supported the army and members of the local community to provide blankets, food, beds, medicines, and escorted passengers to a nearby school.
The NHSD students expressed that they felt inspired to get involved and offer assistance. For them, it came down to basic human etiquette, from a religious and cultural point of view, to bring relief and ease suffering. According to them, the knowledge and resources they gained from the Disaster Management and Emergency Planning course prepared them to appropriately respond to such a crisis situation. Equipped with an understanding of preparation, precautionary measures, and how to implement disaster management strategies, the students helped to reassure the passengers, prepared shelters, and safely transported them out of the cold.
Sadly, 20 lives were lost, and the students said they have experienced survivor’s guilt and post-traumatic stress disorder in the aftermath. Many of the students live close to the area, so this disaster hit home. Memories from this disaster have stirred up some unsettling feelings, but also serve as a reminder of what the country must do in terms of disaster planning and preparedness.
This disaster has highlighted a great need to improve disaster response and train first responders in Pakistan. Dr. Fauzia Moghees, NHSD Executive Coordinator, said planning is required for coordinated response efforts in the event of a future emergency. She is making an appeal for funding for extensive training in search and rescue, first aid, trauma and casualty, disaster preparedness, and improving the readiness of first responders in the local communities and relief organizations.
At NextGenU.org, we believe that making professional development courses freely available can improve the quality of people’s lives around the world. Our Disaster Management and Emergency Planning course with certificate introduces the concepts and processes of emergency planning and management of disasters within a developing world context and strategies for responding to potential public health needs in the wake of a disaster.