The First Responders

NDRF to train over 70,000 people in disaster management

Subhashis Mittra

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) plans to train over 70,000 people in disaster management by the end of the year. So far more than 13,000 volunteers have been trained by the NDRF.

The First Responders

This was shared by Union minister of state for home affairs, Nityanand Rai, while addressing the NDRF’s 19th Raising Day celebration at the Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi on January 19. The NDRF was raised this day in 2006 as a multi-skilled stand-alone Disaster Response Force to respond to all natural and man-made disasters. At present, it has a strength of more than 18,000 men and women rescuers deployed across the country as part of 16 battalions and 28 Regional Response Centres (RRCs). The NDRF Academy is located in Nagpur.

It attends to various disasters including collapsed structure search, train accidents and rescue operations during earthquakes and landslides, floods, cyclones, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear contingencies and medical emergencies, among others. As per official data, the NDRF saved 6,000 lives and evacuated 51,000 people from disaster-hit areas, apart from rescuing 3,000 animals like cattle and dogs during its 900 operations undertaken across the country in 2023.

The minister said the rescue operations during the cyclone Biparjoy in Gujarat and Silkyara Tunnel collapse in Uttarakhand were major achievements of the force last year as no life was lost during the catastrophes. NDRF director general (DG) Atul Karwal said the federal contingency force will soon launch online content in disaster management and community outreach to prepare people better. He said the NDRF has decided to observe 2024 as the year to prepare for an effective response against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) attacks.

The Union home ministry has already sanctioned the procurement of specialised equipment for the CBRN tasks. The DG asserted that about 97-98 per cent of the NDRF rescuers were ‘absolutely fit’ to take on any challenge given to them. “Two incidents, the 2020 styrene gas leakage in Visakhapatnam and a gas leak in Ludhiana last year have made us decide that we will observe 2024 as the year of CBRN response and preparedness,” he said. The NDRF procured four HAZMAT (hazardous material) vehicles during the recently concluded G20 Summit in the national capital at a total cost of INR 60 crores for tackling CBRN accidents and disasters.

The multi-tonne HAZMAT apparatus has been installed on Bharat Benz trucks and manufactured by defence PSU Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). Each of these indigenously made vehicles costs about INR 15 crores. These vehicles are used to detect the roots of CBRN attacks, monitor and track them, and can also be used to decontaminate or plug the source of such an outbreak.

Each vehicle is armed with a communication setup via a dish antenna erected on its roof and a GPS, a CBRN shelter and an air filtration and conditioning unit. It can hold six people in an air-tight compartment that can be sealed by a heavy metal gate. These vehicles have night vision devices, and the operators can keep in touch with a control and command centre outside from where a rescue operation can be launched to tackle a CBRN attack.

The DG said three NDRF teams trained to tackle forest fires are in place now and the equipment for them is being procured at a fast pace. The NDRF was directed to skill its rescuers in this domain last year. Karwal said the force has done better in terms of physical and mental fitness. The force was working to ensure that there is a permanent physiotherapist and trained counsellor in each of its 16 battalions so that rescuers who come back from operations where they see death, despair and pain can be counselled and calm.

Since drowning accounts for more than 100 deaths per day or about 38,000 fatal casualties in a year in the country, the NDRF has decided to minimise these incidents by preparing a national contingency plan and an in-house mobile app that will work as a ‘heat map’ for NDRF teams.

“As soon as there is a blip on the online crime tracking system (CCTNS) about a drowning incident, we will get to know the police station and the state where the incident has taken place,” the NDRF director general explained. The DG said the agency has asked government cyber agencies like the National Informatics Centre (NIC) to prepare a mobile or desktop application so that it can respond to such situations promptly after taking the CCTNS data from the NCRB.

“In drowning-prone sites, we are planning to do things like putting up more warning signages about the depth of water, deploying volunteers trained in rescue efforts, and stationing personnel from the state disaster response force, or if there is a big event near or on the river, then the NDRF can be sent,” he said.

The ministry of home affairs has also sanctioned eight new RRCs for stationing small teams of NDRF rescuers in various states. The NDRF has 28 RRCs at present and these bases host elite teams of rescuers, vehicles and equipment that can rush to a disaster site under their jurisdiction. Rai pointed out that India has sent humanitarian assistance to various countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Indonesia, Cambodia, Lebanon, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Turkiye, Ukraine, Syria and Palestine as part of the Narendra Modi government’s foreign policy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family).

The Prime Minister expressed admiration for the NDRF personnel, acknowledging their unparalleled bravery and tireless efforts in confronting the most challenging emergencies. In a post on X, PM Modi lauded the valiant members of the force. He emphasised that their actions go beyond saving lives, exemplifying humanity’s best qualities. “On their Raising Day, I laud all the valiant members of the @NDRFHQ. Their unparalleled bravery and tireless efforts in the most challenging emergencies showcase the true spirit of heroism.”

The Prime Minister also commended the NDRF’s commitment to disaster response and resilience, considering their crucial role in managing and mitigating the impact of natural disasters. “They venture into the heart of disasters to bring hope and relief—they not only save lives but also exemplify humanity’s best. Their commitment to disaster response and resilience is noteworthy,” the post on X said.

Union home minister Amit Shah also conveyed greetings to the NDRF personnel. “Greetings to the NDRF personnel on their raising day. The @NDRFHQ is a force that has not only salvaged lives and properties during disasters in our nation but also evolved as a force that carries our civilizational message of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam by extending a helping hand to different nations across the globe,” Shah said in a post on X. “I bow to the brave souls of the force who have laid down their lives to protect others,” he added.

Since its inception, the NDRF has continued to win the hearts of millions of countrymen by demonstrating its expertise and compassion while handling disaster situations. The sincerity, professionalism and devotion displayed by the rescuers during disasters have popularised NDRF so much among citizens that the NDRF rescuers have been named ‘Angels in Disaster’ by the people.

You must be logged in to view this content.





Call us