‘We still receive hoax, prank calls on our emergency lines’
Adesina Tiamiyu is the General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Agency (LASEMA), the agency responsible for all forms of emergency and disaster management in the state. In this interview with TOBI AWODIPE, he speaks on what to do in times of a flood or a distressed building incident and how hoax calls prevent people with real emergencies from reaching them for help, among other things
There seems to be an increase in the number of disasters recorded in the state in the last two months, both natural and man-made. How has your agency been managing and weathering the storm?
I don’t want to believe there is an increase. I will rather say that I think the level of awareness has risen among our people. A while ago, a lady called the emergency number to report her husband who is beating her and she called for help. That’s the spirit as far as I am concerned. On how we have been able to cope, I think we all are aspiring to dream big like the governor, Akinwunmi Ambode. We believe we can do it and that spirit is our spirit. The people of Somolu called us to help them in clearing their canals that has caused flooding of their homes and streets and we moved equipment to site and for four days, we have been clearing the canal of dirt and silt that completely covered the whole thing.
While doing that, on Tuesday afternoon, we got a call about a four-storey building that collapsed, killing eight people while we were able to rescue 15. We worked all night into the next day to ensure we get trapped victims out. We have equipment on ground and more have been ordered to boost our services. This and the staff is the secret behind our strength, nothing else.
In the last one week, some areas in the state have experienced flooding and a couple of building collapses. What would you tell Lagosians to do in the face of these unexpected emergencies?
For flooding, the major cause includes heavy rainfall, blockage of the drains and canals, indiscriminate building on water channels and rise in global water levels, occasioned by natural and man made occurrences. In a situation like that, we have been advising people not to build on drainage channels, not to throw waste in the canals, clear the gutters in front of their homes and watch out for those early warning signs of flooding like when rains are heavy, water level is rising, windstorm and thunderstorm and so on. They should stay indoors and watch over their children if it’s not necessary to be outside. Switch off all lights in their homes when it is flooded, try to move out of a flooded house before the water level rises above knee levels and also call 112/767 when imminent danger looms. Drivers should ensure their vehicles are in good condition, they should park and wait for rain to subside if they cannot see well and ensure that brakes, wipers and other safety accessories in the car is in good, working condition.
As for collapsed buildings, we have been encouraging our people to report untoward activities of building developers, especially on the Island where more bungalows are being converted to multi-storey buildings overnight illegally. When you notice visible cracks on a building, when plasters are falling off revealing the iron rods, when pillars are being added to structures in an attempt to raise the floors or when construction is illegally taking place at night, just call us and report such building and location, that is all, we would take action. These are signs that danger is lurking for such building. The building that collapsed on Massey Street on the Island this week was caused by the illegal installation of a mast on that building, thereby adding more weight to an already weak structure. We appeal to Lagosians to please report any such illegal activities to the right Agencies of government and when you don’t know, just call 112 or 767.
How will you react to allegations from some quarters that the agency doesn’t respond quickly to emergencies and in some cases, officials are attacked when they get to emergency sites?
To say that we don’t respond to emergencies quickly is not true. There are things that may cause delays like improper information about incidences, traffic bottleneck, lateness in calling because people always try to do self help until that fails before they remember to call us, crowd situation and poor accessibility to incident scene. These are just some of the few things that may cause delay. We send out teams as soon as messages get to us. Sometimes we send them out first and pass information to them as they go so that we save time. We have power bikes that can also get some of our men to incident scenes very quickly. Again, we have three dispatch points in the state as we speak. We have in Ikeja, Oshodi and Lekki. Fadeyi and Ijanikin points are under construction while Epe will have one by the end of this year. All of these will improve our response time tremendously. Since I assumed office in September 2016, we have not come under any attack, rather people have been supporting and assisting us tremendously.
In your opinion, has people’s attitude improved relating to issues such as calling promptly when emergencies occur?
Well, yes. It has also reflected in the number of calls we get daily, which is nearing 100,000. However we still have several hoax calls, children call to play pranks on our consultants, especially now that they are on holidays. We want to appeal to callers to know that anytime they play with our emergency numbers, they are denying genuine callers the chance to reach us and it could cost others their lives.
What is your agency doing in terms of raising more awareness to familiarise people with the emergency numbers and simple life saving procedures?
We have been sensitizing the public by radio and TV announcements; we also share handbills and posters. We will move beyond this by directly engaging with the public soon, when we embark on a Road Show to take the campaign to the streets of Lagos. We also appeal to our friends in the media to see this campaign as their own CSR and help spread the message as much as possible.
As the Chief Emergency Officer of the state, what would you advise first responders to do at the scene of an emergency?
When emergency of any kind occurs, the first thing is to get away from harms’ way and then call for help. While help is coming, if it is not dangerous, try to cordon off the scene and place reflective objects around to alert other people. When responders come around to help, give them the chance to do their jobs. Take instruction from them, as they know the dangers involved in any emergency situation. People should also keep a reasonable distance to avoid secondary accidents. People loot scenes of incidences; this is very wrong and unnecessary. We appreciate Lagosians who are eager to join us to help but we are more concerned for their safety more than the help they want to render.
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