Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Indian safety and Ambulance service of NSW**

Today, I am talking to Indians.

I wonder how many of you recall, or even are aware of the animated series 'Around the world in eighty days' based on the novel of the same name, which was made perhaps in late 70s, or early eighties? Each episode, if I remember correctly, ended with a saying or a rhyming catchphrase. One of these has stayed with me through all these years, despite having no remembrance of that particular episode: "The motto of the wise is, be prepared for surprises". The usefulness of this motto in daily living is in direct proportion to your tendency to hyperventilate in the face of a wrong morning paper, but as far as real emergencies go, there is no doubt that preparedness saves lives. Being prepared starts with being aware of the risks and limits of whatever you are doing or are involved in, even if it is simply living your life wherever you are, whichever way you are doing it. When you know of the things which can go wrong, and how they can go wrong, you have already started knitting the safety net, because you can then plan the appropriate response. It can mean leaving an earthquake prone area to live in. Or putting up fresh light bulbs in the long corridor of your office. Or wearing helmets. Or government's flood control plan. Or the triage practice at the trauma centre. Or having an emergency evacuation drill in your home every now and then. Anything that either reduces the risks of the unforeseen happening or gets you ready to face it when it does happen in a panic free way.

Unfortunately, on an individual level, and as a community and nation, we are prone to believing ourselves immortal, infallible. Perhaps the blinkers we need to get through the business of daily living without giving in to the invariable tearing apart of our hearts are too large, and they prevent us from looking around, taking responsibility, being pro-active. Instead, we drive on the wrong side of the road, walk in the middle of traffic, hang on from trains, postpone visits to doctors but not to faith healers, break safety rules whenever we can, refuse to subscribe to the notion that our safety is our own concern. Everything that is wrong is to be blamed on another community - of politics, caste, religion, locality, creed - any thread which unites the non us.

Oh well, that is us. "Sau mein se ninyanve beyimaan, phir bhi mera Bharat mahan." But it explains, for instance, how is it that the best of our play-schools run in converted residences without any adequate child protection devices or practices in place. Lack of adequate fire escape pathways, of fire extinguishers, of smoke and fire alarms can perhaps be attributed to the expense. Lack of knowledge of what to do in case of a fire, of how to extinguish it, of how to give first aid to a burns victim; lack of discussion or policy of fire escape, or practice runs, or apportioning of responsibility; lack of basic safety knowledge - these are not excusable. But there they are. I challenge you to find me one school in India that is safety conscious, has these (among others) safeguards in place. In fact, I challenge you to tell me that your household is prepared. That you have - since we are already talking of fire - a response plan, that your toddler knows what to do, that you have the requisite prevention and remedial measures in place.

I don't. Despite knowing and agonizing and theorizing.

I rest my case.

And now, the antidote - knowledge. A very simple site for today, and I must warn you, not really tailored for us, since it is the Ambulance service of New South Wales, Australia. But as a beginning, it will do. Their kid section has simple one pane messages about what an ambulance does, or how to make an emergency call, with voice over but no animation. In itself the site is not enticing enough to hold a child's attention, but if they are young, and looking out for something new, go over this with them and discuss, explain, and guide. Even little children as young as three can save their own lives, and that of others if they know the correct response in emergency situations.

The two games included here are actually quizzes, so suitable only for older kids, unless you are also explaining and translating at the same time. The one about big or little accident is a good starting point to teach them about the seriousness of a situation.

Check it out, and if you know of other sites which are cuter - let me know!

The url -

P.S. Another old phrase which has stayed with me is 'savdhanin hati, durghtana ghati'. I don't recall if it was a governmental campaign or something else related to the government, but it was official alright! And god, so true. Especially for the household and industrial accidents!