Aapada Mitra

“Aapada Mitras” – Friend of Communities during Emergencies

            Community is the first responder to any kind of disaster. Quick and prompt response of community members during initial few hours of occurrence of any disasters save many precious lives and properties.  Community level volunteers play a very crucial role in saving lives and properties during the initial period of disaster. If theses community level volunteers are trained on different techniques of disaster response like Search & Rescue and First-Aid techniques, they can respond to any disaster effectively and efficiently.

            Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA) has implemented the scheme on “Training of Community level volunteers in disaster response- Aapada Mitra” sponsored by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). Two flood prone districts of Odisha, namely, Puri and Jagatsinghpur have been selected by NDMA for the scheme. NDMA has provided overall technical guidance and full funding support. A good nos. of volunteers in these two districts have been created under the scheme. These volunteers can be used not only during disasters but their skills can be utilized during day to day incidences at the community level.  

The basic objectives of the Aapada Mitra scheme are:

  1. To train able-bodied community volunteers in disaster response (flood relief and rescue) at the taluka/block level in each of the project districts. These trained volunteers will be called as “Aapda Mitra”.
  2. To develop standardized training modules for the set of trainings under the scheme.
  3. To train the volunteers in life saving skills of disaster response, coordination and assistance, and protective equipment and emergency responder kit.
  4. To disseminate training and education tools developed under the project to more number of flood prone districts in subsequent phases of the scheme

Status of the Scheme in the State of Odisha:

                  The “Aapada Mitra” scheme provides good platform to train the community level volunteers in disaster response and the volunteers are good resources during emergencies. In Odisha 400 community level volunteers have been trained in Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts. The training programmes have been organized in 16 batches (8 batches in each district), where 25 volunteers have been trained in one batch.  Sixteen Multi-Purpose Flood and Cyclone Shelters were selected as training venue in Jagatsinghpur and Puri Districts. The resource persons were instructors from OSDMA, ODRAF (Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force), Civil Defence, St.John Ambulance and Odisha Fire Services. The detail of the programme is given in the flowing table.

Description Jagatsinghpur

District

Puri

District

Total
No. of volunteers trained 200 200 400
No. of Batches completed 8 8 16
No. of female volunteers trained 67 33 100 (25%)

Services rendered by the “Aapada Mitra” Volunteers during the Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm “FANI”

              The Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm “FANI’ made landfall at about 8.30 AM on 3rd May 2019 between Satapada and Puri. As reported by IMD, the maximum sustained surface wind speed of 170-180 kmph gusting to 205 kmph was observed during landfall. Since the formation of the cyclonic system, the State Government started closely monitoring the situation. Based on the forecast issued by India Meteorological Department and other International Agencies the system was continuously tracked and analyzed on GIS platform. Massive preparedness measures were undertaken by the Government of Odisha soon after receipt of warning from IMD and analysis of forecast from different Meteorological Agencies. The districts were alerted based on the probable cyclone track and impact area.

            Including all the preparatory measures undertaken by the State Government Response Forces like Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Odisha Fire Service, Civil Defence and Community level Task Forces including the trained Aapada Mitras were pre-positioned in the likely to be affected districts by the Cyclone FANI. Odisha is having 400-trained Aapada Mitras volunteers in the District of Jagatsinghpur and Puri, who have been trained in Search and Rescue and First-Aid techniques and other live savings skills.

            On 1st of May 2019 the Aapada Mitras of Jagatsinghpur and Puri were directed by the District Administrations to report to the Block Development Officers (BDOs) of their concerned Blocks and work as per their directions. As per the instructions given by the concerned Block Development Officers, the volunteers were engaged in Early Warning Dissemination and evacuating the vulnerable sections of the community like old age persons, pregnant women, children, Persons with Disabilities, patients and other vulnerable section of the community. The volunteers were tagged to the nearby Multi Purpose Cyclone and Flood   Shelters and other safe shelters and started evacuating the vulnerable persons from 2nd of May.                               

            Cyclone FANI crossed the Odisha coast near Puri and Satapada in the morning of 3rd May 2019 leaving behind devastation. 14 districts were affected by the Cyclone.  3 districts (Puri, Cuttack and Khorda) were severely affected. The Aapada Mitras volunteers moved to action as soon as Cyclone FANI started losing its grip and the wind speed receded. They started clearing the roads, which were blocked by uprooted trees and electric poles and assisted the Odisha Fire Service personnel in clearing the roads. Apada Mitras were also engaged in providing First Aid to the injured persons at the Shelters.

            Apart from road clearance and providing First Aid to the injured persons the Aapada Mitras were also engaged in managing free kitchen at the Cyclone and Flood Shelters. They were also involved in debris clearance in some schools in Jagatsinghpur and Puri districts. As per the directions of District Collector and District Magistrate the Aapada Mitra were also engaged in monitoring the PDS distribution in the district of Puri.

            The remarkable work done by the Aapada Mitras during the Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm FANI were appreciated from all corners of the State.

Way Forward:

                  In view of recurrence of extreme weather events and climate change manifestation, many multi-diverse natural hazards have increased manifold in all districts of Odisha. Aapada Mitra scheme is a good platform to develop the skill and knowledge of community level volunteers on disaster response at the grass roots. This would immensely contribute towards building disaster resilience. The already trained Aapada Mitras in the state of Odisha are doing remarkable jobs in extending support at the community level and district level at the time of needs.