Radio Stations Become Emergency Response Call Receivers

Thu, 6 Feb 2014 Source: Goka, Frank

Ghana: Where Radio Stations Become Emergency Response Call Receivers

As observed by:

Frank Goka.

Having keen interest in Ghana—the land of my birth, I usually tune-in to some of the notable Radio Stations littered in the country by courtesy of the cyber web. Per my tallies, no week of constant listening passes without a presenter announcing to call the attention of Emergency Response Team (ERT) to a scene of a disaster, accident, robbery and other exigencies. To recall, the numerous market and industrial fires, transformer infernos, road accidents and a host of other calamities were aired on these stations with on-lookers calling for help. During the heavy rainfall last Friday 31st January, Kojo Asare Baffour (A.k.a KABA) on “Eko Sii Sen” program announced an incident where a taxi driver was calling for help for his passenger—a woman who had given birth in the cab en route to Korle-Bu for delivery. The driver satirically had forgotten the abracadabra he would have recited to turn the taxi into a canoe which will float on the man-aided flood at Kaneshie. Again and again, the host will appeal passionately for the Emergency Team to rush to the aid of the misfortune woman. Only God knows how long it took the driver to contact the Radio Station. What if no ERT member or center was listening to that Radio Station at the time? Please be mindful that for now, I am talking about the calling for the ERT, response time will be discussed later.

I am aware this topic could be very sensitive to readers, such that many hearts will bleed, stomachs will elicit borborygmi, and tempers will rise above “boiling points” to warrant fingers being pointed at the erstwhile, penultimate and current infantile regime; thereby inducing the catalytic “bitters” in readers which might propel them to their seamstress for a gorgeous NDC or NPP “Dzoromi Outfit” to fit the issue at stake. But take a deep breath and remove your partisan glasses and let us look at this problem through the National Binoculars instead! The bane of most developmental challenges in Ghana was/is a result of constant and consistent tagging of issues with political party colours! For instance, the accreted “World Trade Center” of refuse damp (Borla) at Agbogblosie, Makola, Ashaiman, Kumasi Central Market, etc is NDC problem so only NDC must solve it. On the flip side of the coin, the high rise of the local currency against the major ones are the result of some NPP business folks manipulating the currency in their bedrooms so they must fix it. These hyperbolic mentalities are the latent factors directly proportional to the down-growth of the economy and development in the country, and the time to rethink is at hand.

Coming back from digression, let us attempt to define the phrase “Emergency Response”. To me, it is as direct as it sounds—the act of responding to an unexpected, serious and life-threatening situation which requires immediate attention by a well-trained personnel in a TIMELY manner. In emergency, time is life! And every second or minute wasted could erode someone’s life, so the question is: How then should someone in a dire need for help be calling a Radio Station with one or two active lines which are already choked during a heated argumentative program involving NDC & NPP panelists? Talking about emergency response, I wouldn’t dare comparing Ghana to the developed countries because it will be unfair on my part as Ghana is not their “co-equals…Tweaa!”, but we must however tailor our cloth according to our heights by planning and instituting stress-free accessibility to our rescuers within our confines.

Sample of educated children and adults questioned on: “Who would you call during an emergency?” induced laughable but serious answers like “I will call Bra Macho”, “I will call my mummy”, “I will call Radio Gold”, etc. A few that intended calling the “Police and Fire Service” could not even remember the numbers to their hotlines. Some that were able to dig out the numbers from the lots preferred calling the FM Stations to the Police/ Fire because the latter’s hotlines get “frozen” and misdirected sometimes. Their reason is simple: The FM will broadcast to wider audience and the probability of hitting responders might be higher. I am not totally discrediting the in-puts of these FM stations but the perception of them being the prime contact in emergency response is absolutely disastrous.

Coincidentally, listening to Radio Gold’s news bulletin at the time of this write-up (Wednesday Feb. 5, 2014), DCOP Tetteh Yohonu, in response to a report on activities of a group calling itself “Armed Robbers Assn. of Ghana”, gave impetus to this article by advising the residents of Agape and the public to communicate among themselves and also call the hotlines 18555 (Vodafon and MTN) or 0302773906 should those people strike. Interesting! What if a victim doesn’t have MTN or Vodafon? Would someone under duress be capable to retrieve 0..3..0..2..7..7..3….from memory let alone dialing the number? Would an arm-robber be that generous to give all the luxury of time for the victim to call “heaven” to make reservation? Well, in emergency, I consider that long digits as a number to call heaven.

This issue is so dear to my heart because reflecting on some disasters and accidents that claimed innocent lives in Ghana e.g. May 9th Disaster, I can say on authority that with good Emergency Response mechanism, some deaths could have been averted. Having identified this problem, let me be the first to heed to President Mahama’s call to proffer solution to this eminent problem—with the hope that the following suggestions (if deemed cogent) would be equally heeded to:

Components of ERT should be made of the Police, Fire Service, Ambulance Squad (with trained personnel in emergency care) Chemical Response Team, Hospitals, etc. I am aware of existence of these units, but the public should be educated on their existence, readiness and functionalities to woo confidence. Their operations should be decentralized and rules of engagement of each component should clearly be defined and coordinated.

Activation: Calling this rescuers should be hustle-free and at no cost. Complex numbers should be substituted with standard SOLITARY, short and easy-to-remember numbers the entire nation will use, but routed to different call centers base on zoning and location. The current procedure of 191 for Police, 999/192 for Fire and 193 for Ambulance might be confusing in a normal day let alone in emergency. Trained personnel at the Operation Rooms should rather direct the calls base on the nature of the emergency e.g. If “999” is adopted as the standard emergency response number, a “999” call from a woman in labour in Ashaiman should activate Tema Emergency Call Center, the dispatcher then activates Ambulance Station at Ashaiman, the Ambulance Command Center in Ashaiman should also dispatch the NEAREST stationary ambulance closer to the woman’s address. OR, all ambulance within the vicinity should be able to pick the signal and the nearest will go to the woman’s aid! All the Phone Companies should be brought on board to implement this idea and dedicated parallel lines must be allocated to call centers to avoid traffic (i.e. when a “999” call is in progress, another in-coming “999” call from same zone will ring on another phone). Lines should be tested on appropriate intervals and their efficiencies documented.

Education: Every institution in the country should embark on EXTENSIVE education to sensitize the public. Radio Stations (their job now),TVs, Newspapers, Schools, Churches, Community Leaders, etc should disseminate that unique standard number and the duties of the ERT should be elaborated. The public should know the essence of the Police/Fire/Ambulance sirens and yield to them swiftly. Likewise, disobedient drivers and abusers of sirens should be prosecuted accordingly to instill discipline.

Accessibility: Despite the ongoing road constructions on the major highways, equal attention should be directed to the intra-city roads to enhance swift arrival of ERT. In a similar publication titled “Are There Enough Visas to Ghana” https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/features/artikel.php?ID=263036; the writer passionately advocated for street naming and house numbering to enable easy location of address for economic growth and in this case, to aid in emergency response and rescues.

Logistics: Without adequate ambulances, Police and Fire accoutrements , communication gadgets, and other related supplies this article might end up being “one of those”. I strongly believe that implementation of these plans will not only save lives and properties, aid in crime combat, enhance the image of the nation, but will significantly create employment to the youth as well. Every second in emergency counts; calling the ERT with ease and the sooner it takes rescuers to arrive at scenes, the brighter the chance of saving a voter’s life!

Frank Goka.


Columnist: Goka, Frank