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Lagosians commend emergency management agencies, ask for more

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Victim being rescued at a building collapse in Ilasamaja area of Lagos some months ago

Without a doubt, Lagos State has established itself as a pacesetter in most areas of endeavor. The state had blazed the trail in emergency management, healthcare services, the arts and entertainment, commerce and industry, education, security and hospitality, among others.

This may not be unconnected to why most people seek to reside in the city.

Prior to the establishment of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) in 2008, it had its fair share of disasters: Fire, flood, collapsed buildings, accidents and suicides.

Some of theses disasters, particularly motor accidents had caused serious traffic congestion in parts of the city.

Sometimes, fire outbreaks, especially those caused by pipeline explosions (like the May 15, 2008 Ijegun pipeline incident), have thrown entire communities into serious turmoil with large number of casualties.

Though the disasters cannot be entirely ruled out, the rate of casualties and damages have been reduced to barest minimum where the occur, as LASEMA in recent times has been equipped for effective and efficient service delivery, with their services stretching to border towns in the state.

For instance, on Monday, May 29 this year, a building with a penthouse under renovation on Daddy Alaja Street, Oke-Arin in Idumota, collapsed, killing a foreman and a five-year-old girl, while 14 others were said to have sustained various degrees of injuries in the Isale-Eko incident that occurred around 7am.

Officials of LASEMA and other agencies like the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), Lagos State Fire Service, Lagos State Ambulance Service, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the Nigerian Police and the recently inaugurated LASEMA Response Unit (LRU) were said to have swiftly responded to the incident.

The LRU is equipped with modern emergency management apparatuses ranging from helicopters to trucks, power bikes, heavy-duty vehicles and fire trucks, as well as Mobile Intensive Care Ambulances (MICA) stationed at strategic locations to address domestic fire incidents and medical emergencies that occur anywhere in the state.

The MICA has highly trained staff and paramedics and they are usually dispatched to emergency situations where patients require a higher level of care than regular ambulances can provide.

The state government has also provided toll free emergency distress call numbers 767 or 117, which is capable of receiving 80,000 emergency calls daily through the state emergency command and control room located in Alausa.

General Manager LASEMA, Adesina Tiamiyu, told The Guardian that the 80,000 emergency calls are usually processed and analysed before appropriate decisions are taken by the relevant agencies, pointing out that some of the calls include cases of child abuse, domestic violence, rape and land grabbing cases and other emerging disasters arising from unexpected incidences.

“Most times, several people call about the same issue but do not stay long enough on the phone to give proper description of the location and the situation. Those calling are very impatient when reporting incidences; they often refuse to give full information.

“The officers don’t know where exactly the problem is and what they are walking into. Some people call that they see a body on the road, sometimes it can be a dead body, other times, a mentally disturbed person and different agencies handle these cases,” he added.

He assured that LASEMA would continue to do everything possible to prevent, manage and mitigate the effect of unforeseen emergency situations in the state, insisting that all the agency requires from the residents was safety consciousness at all times.

He noted that in view of the rising cases of suicide attempts in the lagoon, Governor Akinwumi Ambode has given approval for the establishment a Marine Respond Squad to monitor, rescue and manage any such cases in the lagoon, adding that the agency was specifically for rescue mission on the waterways to complement the efforts of other response personnel on the Lagos lagoon.

“Presently, we have the Lagos Ferry Service, Lagos State Waterways Agency (LASWA), the Marine Police, and several others. All the operatives patrol the waterways daily. But very soon, you will see LASEMA branded boats also joining forces with those on the waterways. This will improve the capacity to respond to any emergency on the waterways,” Tiamiyu stated.

While acknowledging the effective collaboration with other emergency management agencies, he said LASEMA cannot arrogate to itself exclusive powers, knowledge and capacity of responding to all emergencies without the active support of relevant stakeholders like the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Rapid Respond Squad (RRS), and the State Health Environmental Monitoring Unit (SEHMU).

Some residents who spoke to The Guardian commended the agency for its efforts so far, while others said they were not doing enough yet.

Abosede Bashir, a resident of Richard Abimbola Street, Ilasa, where a building collapsed last month, praised the efforts of the officers saying: “It was some area boys that called them. I didn’t believe they would come but they came barely 10 minutes after they were called and they really tried that day. They didn’t allow those area boys to ‘operate,’ if they hadn’t come like that, those boys would have raided all the shops and houses,” she said.

But it was a different story at Cele bus stop on the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway where a male trader claimed that the agency was not doing anything.

“The other day, there was one dead body that was killed by a hit-and-run vehicle at this bus stop and it stayed two days here. We could not sell our market because nobody wanted to go near it.

“We called the emergency numbers the first day and the person that answered said they are coming and we did not see them for two days. Eventually, it was removed but I don’t know who removed it,” he said.

However, Tiamiyu said: “Dead bodies are handled by the State Environmental Health Monitoring Unit (SEHMU) under the department of Health. They are the only ones capable of moving a corpse. An ambulance or emergency vehicle cannot move such.

“When they get to the scene and they see that it is a mentally disturbed person, they call the proper unit to handle them. When this happens, people would say we are wasting time but everyone has their jurisdiction and what they do.”

He urged residents of Lagos to be more patient, adding that the agency have just three service points in the state and delay may occur because of the distance and misinformation.

He further explained that people can report cases at local government secretariats, where action would be expedited, stressing that many people are yet to know the emergency numbers.

“We may not know if we are not told. Sometimes, people don’t report incidences on time and still blame us when we get there. I implore people to know and use these numbers. It has improved but we are yet to get to where we want to be.”

On residents’ attitude to emergency or accident situations, the LASEMA boss stated that people would be busy taking pictures, which they want to upload on the social media -Twitter, Facebook, Instagram; meanwhile, people are dying.

“Our agency can’t do the work alone; it needs the cooperation of Lagosians. My appeal to Lagosians is that whenever accidents occur, they should show some level of respect to our officials’ on rescue mission.

“We also received false calls or alarms sometimes, which we refer to as hoax. Some of these calls are not actionable but we don’t reject any call because you never can say which call is serious in nature. We have trained our personnel on how to be nice to people on phone,” he stated.


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