Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) school students and teachers get lessons in using fire extinguishers, usage of first aid, casualty carrying in the absence of a stretcher and ways of conducting CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Following flood-like situations and series of building collapses in recent months in the city, the disaster management cell has intensified the workshops on disaster management for students and teachers. “School students are most vulnerable when disaster strikes, hence disaster management lessons/workshops should be must in every school. We have already initiated this in BMC-run schools. We also conduct workshops in private schools whenever invited,” said Mahesh Narvekar, chief officer of BMC disaster management unit.
The BMC disaster management unit conducts a two-day-long workshop for students. “We teach them basic things on how to react during disaster situations, like how can they use fire extinguishers, first aid and even teach them ways of casualty carrying in the absence of a stretcher. We teach them CPR too. All these things can not only be helpful during disaster situation but can also make these students confident,” added Narvekar.
Schools feel disaster management lessons are important for the staff as well as students. Some schools have even included disaster management as a part of the syllabi wherein students are made to do projects. “Including disaster management in the curriculum helps create awareness among students. Students should be prepared to face natural and man-made disasters. Such (disaster management) drills are conducted so that school children don’t get scared, but be prepared to face and overcome any disaster,” said Deepshikha Srivastava, principal of Rajhans Vidyalaya, Andheri.
Bombay Scottish, Powai, hires agencies to conduct professional audit of the safety instruments and disaster management system of the school. Such audits are regularly conducted in the school. Apart from auditing the safety equipment and tools to keep a check on their proper functioning, they also conduct fire drills and sessions to teach the students about disaster management. “The approach should be age-appropriate and students should be taught to identify problematic situations and raise concerns,” said principal Sunita George. She added, “We all are vulnerable and no disaster management session can guarantee our safety in such a situation. Being alert, aware and capable to try and take necessary precautions is the best we can do to handle the situation.” Citing the recent Elphinstone stampede, George said, “It is also vital to teach crowd discipline to students and teachers as part of disaster management lessons.” The BMC has got all schools to submit a disaster management plan of their own. According to Narvekar, the same should be made mandatory for private schools too.