Assistant Commandant Anil Kumar Singh was among 120 personnel from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), who participated in search and rescue operations after a four-storey building collapsed in Gurgaon’s Ullahwas village on Thursday. He explains what it takes to conduct such rescue operations.
What is the usual protocol in such cases?
We first analyse the building and determine from which point we can approach. The information provided by locals is critical because, in most cases, by the time we reach, the structure has already collapsed. We rely on local information to understand what its layout was, what material was used, and who was staying there. We then check whether the area is hazardous or not. Utilities like gas pipes, electric lines are located and cut, and only after that do we begin search operations.
How do you ensure safety of people buried under the debris?
We check each section properly with sniffer dogs and other equipment. If there is a chance of a person being buried at a particular spot, we always assume they are alive, and manually get them out. We do not use any heavy equipment in such a case. However, since many buildings have multiple floors, we often have to clear through two to three layers of rubble before we reach the floor where victims are buried. While cutters or JCBs can be used to clear broken debris, for larger chunks of concrete or columns, we use drills to first cut them into pieces, and then remove the remains with a hydra crane.
The Gurgaon building was located in a narrow lane in a congested area. What problems does this create?
The biggest issue is getting our vehicles to the spot. We often have to park 200-500 metres away, and then manually carry equipment. That creates unnecessary delay.
Do factors like darkness or weather play a role?
There is no great impact since we have advanced equipment and are highly trained. We carry 500-watt lights. Rain sometimes hinders us because operating equipment can be a bit of a problem.