Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force

Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force

 In the post-super cyclone reconstruction and preparedness phase in the late 1999, it was felt necessary to constitute a professionally trained group equipped with state of the art emergency equipment to assist the civil administration in search and rescue operation and relief line clearance for effective management of disasters in the event of natural as well as human induced disasters. Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) is the first of its kind in the country is a force of 20 units carved out of the Orissa Special Armed Police (OSAP), Armed Police Reserve (APR), India Reserved (IR) Battalion and Specialized India Reserve (SIR) Battalions. With only about 50 personnel per unit of ODRAF, it is structurally a lean organization. But its fitness and agility in responding to disaster situations make it a formidable force in disaster management. The highly trained manpower of the ODRAF is capable of handling multifarious disasters. The rank and file of the organization follows the military type of training in saving human lives and reaching out to the helpless population affected by disasters. The present locations of ODRAF units are as follows:

Sl.No. District Police Establishment
1 Jharsuguda OSAP 2nd Battalion, Jharsuguda
2 Koraput OSAP 3rd Battalion, Koraput
3 Sundergarh OSAP 4th Battalion, Rourkela
4 Mayurbhanja OSAP 5th Battalion, Baripada
5 Cuttack OSAP 6th Battalion, Cuttack
6 Khurda OSAP 7th Battalion, Bhubaneswar
7 Ganjam OSAP 8th Battalion, Chatrapur
8 Balasore Armed Police Reserve, Balasore
9 Balangir Armed Police Reserve, Balangir
10 Jagatsinghpur Armed Police Reserve, Jagatsinghpur
11 Dhenkanal OSAP 1st Battalion, Dhenkanal
12 Koraput 1st India Reserve Battalion, Upparkolab
13 Rayagada 2nd India Reserve Battalion, Gunupur
14 Jajpur 3rd India Reserve Battalion, Kalinganagar
15 Deogarh 4th India Reserve Battalion, Deogarh
16 Boudh 5th India Reserve Battalion, Boudh
17 Khurda 6th India Reserve Battalion, Khurda
18 Ganjam OSAP 8th Battalion, Chatrapur
19 Koraput 7th Specialized India Reserve Battalion, Koraput
20 Kandhamal 8th Specialized India Reserve Battalion, Kandhamal

From its inception, the ODRAF units have rendered valuable service in the event of natural as well as human induced disaster in the state. In the process of handling disaster situations, ODRAF has virtually become a brand image of the administration for disaster response activities. The initiative was to strengthen the ODRAF units with good training inputs and provide suitable equipment and to broad base its utilization in the event of disasters. The changing face of disaster and uncertainty of its occurrence had created the need for putting the ODRAF on a different platform of professional service provider to the administration for better management of disasters. The popular need for such a force was palpable and the initiative was aimed towards transforming and modifying the existing ODRAF into a powerful disaster management force.

Purpose and priorities of the initiative

The ODRAF is mostly utilized as a response force deployed in the aftermath of a disaster like flood and cyclone. It was felt necessary to change the practice of utilizing ODRAF as a post-disaster response force to a pre-disaster preparedness initiative. The sudden and erratic pattern of rainfall and unpredictability of human induced disasters like insurgency activities and civil strife has generated the ground for taking up the initiative of strengthening ODRAF with skill identification and up-gradation and developing the practice and protocol of deployment of ODRAF: for relief restoration and overall assistance to administration during disasters. The operability and maintenance of the emergency equipment, training of the ODRAF personnel and effective coordination mechanism of deployment of ODRAF are the priority areas of the initiative.

Strategies adopted / mode of transformation with details of role of various Stakeholders

  1. Standard Operating Procedure (SOP): For effective deployment of ODRAF units, a clear-cut guideline in the shape of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) was formulated. The SOP contains the clear-cut guidelines for conduct of personnel and maintenance of equipment during normal times and set up regulations for the men and machines of ODRAF during emergency situations. The minute details pertaining to the camp arrangement and provision of fuel, etc. for the equipment form an integral part of the SOP.
  2. Intra-Organization Coordination: For management of high intensity/ large scale disasters, strong intra-organization coordination mechanisms are operated amidst ODRAF units. A perfect coordination is maintained among the major stakeholders like Special Relief Commissioner, Managing Director, OSDMA, Inspector General of Police (Law & Order), Commandants of the OSAP Battalions, the Officer-in-charge of the ODRAF unit, Collector & District Magistrate of the District, the Block Development Officer/ Tahasildar, Field level officials of different line departments with the Water Resources Department, local representatives of Panchayati Raj Institutions, the community leaders and NGOs for minimizing the response time and bridging the gaps in coordinated efforts. The ODRAF jawans of ODRAF are sent to the field to acquaint themselves with the terrain and the vulnerability of the area. The district administration is contacted and ODRAF units are mobilized as per the requirement of the situation.
  3. Interface with External Disaster Management Agencies: One of the major strategic initiative experimented in the field which has yielded positive outcomes is the operational interface of ODRAF with Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Air Force (IAF), Indian Coast Guard, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and Odisha Fire Service. The seamless coordination among these dedicated agencies achieved a high level of operational efficiency in search and rescue and relief operations. The joint operations by ODRAF and Military and Para-military Forces during the recent emergency operations indicate that the professional prowess of ODRAF that match with the performance of these highly trained forces.

Training & Capacity Building: ODRAF is the front line responders to the critical needs of its citizens at the time of disasters.  The ODRAF personnel risk their lives saving the distressed people. Safety of this responder depends on extensive training, proper equipment and effective performance. Their training is absolutely key to their effectiveness and safety. To attain an effective and efficient disaster response, the pressing need is of specific disaster response training courses and devising a unified, structured and uniform course module as well as syllabus for disaster response courses. The variegated nature of disasters to be dealt with would call for a wide variety of training inputs which call for mutually-different techniques of response.

In pursuance of the decision of the 27th Governing Body of OSDMA, Disaster Management Training Cell (DMTC) has been set up at Revenue Officers’ Training Institute (ROTI), Gothapatana, Bhubaneswar for strengthening of ODRAF, Fire Service and others. ODRAF personnel are being deputed to different national level reputed institutions for specialized and TOT courses. A full flagged Disaster Response Training Guidelines has been devised on the basis of systematic training and in-house training courses with optimal content as per the requirement of the disaster response of the State.

The annual training calendar is prepared taking into consideration the types of training, availability of training slots in State and National level training institutions and non-disaster lean time. The courses are modular in nature and the specific content can be varied according to the role that the attendees fulfil. Training programmes for Disaster Response to ODRAF will have to take care of the following categories of courses.

  1. Basic/Induction level Training Course (Internal)
  2. Advanced/ Specialized Course (Internal)
  3. Specialized and Training of Trainer’s Courses:

Development of Skill Matrix:  A logic based numeric skill matrix has been developed for identification and augmentations of the capacity of ODRAF personnel in different response activities which has been highly appreciated by the management audit team of the ISO 9001 2000 certification agency. The disaster response activities are divided into the following groups of equipment depending on their possible application in different disaster situations:

  • Water rescue
  • Collapsed Structure Search & Rescue (CSSR)
  • Relief line clearance
  • Transportation
  • Communication
  • Casualty management
  • Miscellaneous response

The skill matrix is initially prepared with the self-assessment of the jawans on their knowledge on use of different groups of equipment. The proficiency of individual jawans in the use of each equipment is measured on the following scale.

  • No Knowledge- Does not know the equipment / skill.
  • Exposure only- Only knows the equipment & its use but can’t use it.
  • Acquaintance- Knows the equipment well but can operate with/ under somebody’s help or supervision.
  • Expertise- Full knowledge on the equipment & its operation; can use it independently without anybody’s help.

Joint Mock Drills: The experience shows that the proficiency of a professional group in emergency operation is visibly enhanced by another equally efficient professional unit if both the teams are operating in tandem. Therefore joint mock drills have been conducted among the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), ODRAF, State Fire Service Civil Defence, St. John Ambulance, Red Cross, East Coast Railway and Airport Authority of India and other stakeholders. Such mock drills in water rescue operations have been productive in real life applications across the state when ODRAF, Fire Service and NDRF jawans were deployed for flood relief operations.

Operation level feedback in procurement of equipment: As per the set norms, the equipment to be procured for ODRAF units is decided by a procurement committee. Procurement for ODRAF and Fire service is looked after by a purchase committee constituted at the State level. With a view to augmenting the decision making process of the above committees, the master trainers of ODRAF are invited to apprise the apex committees regarding requirement and use of a particular equipment proposed to be procured. This has enhanced the professional standards of the ODRAF jawans as the equipment they use are selected by themselves.

Simplified procedures:  For deployment of ODRAF unit, the Collector and District Magistrate files requisition with the Special Relief Commissioner/ Managing Director, OSDMA. However, telephonic requests are received by the State Emergency Operation Centre/ identified officer in OSDMA to mobilize the ODRAF teams without delay during the contingency.  

ODRAF units are uniformed service borne in the police administration. They require a command from the competent authority for movement. The Inspector General of Police (Law & Order) who is the apex authority in the State for movement of ODRAF is generally requested by the Special Relief Commissioner/ Managing Director of OSDMA for issue of deployment orders, which are non-negotiable.

Sustainability of the initiative:      The equipment, infrastructure, running cost, training & capacity building and maintenance are taken care of by OSDMA. The funding of the ODRAF is from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF). The modus operandi developed for strengthening the ODRAF will continue to carry the initiative on a sustainable basis. The increased frequency of disasters and unpredictability of weathers in the light of the climate change has given rise to active intervention of a professional unit like ODRAF for effective management of disasters.