KUCHING (Bernama) – Malaysia needs a robust emergency response system (rescue teams and emergency medical services) in facing any eventuality in the future.
Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said the country also needed more of its citizens who were willing to be involved in the efforts of the rescue agencies.
“The culture of willing to reach out to others in times of distress should be instilled in the people of this country,” he said at a press conference after officiating at the International Major Incident Response Exercise Competition (iMIREX) at the Sarawak Cultural Village in Santubong, yesterday.
Thirty-one teams comprising 15 national, nine international and seven from rescue agency departments are participating in this year’s edition of iMIREX, an unprecedented number.
Ahmad Shabery said rescue agencies needed to be empowered with all the training and skills necessary, besides sophisticated equipment.
According to him, Malaysia had shown a remarkable improvement in missions to save and rescue disaster victims since the aftermath of the Highlands Tower incident.
“I remember during the Highlands Tower incident, we did not know how to handle the situation and had to use sniffer dogs from France and miners from Australia to locate and find the victims in the rubble.
“We could not do anything about it at that time as we did not have the capability, but from there we have seen various rescue teams established in order to be prepared in facing disasters or major accidents,” he said.
In fact, of late, he added, Malaysian rescue teams had always been the first to arrive at the scene of a disaster abroad to offer search-and-rescue assistance, emergency medical services and other assistance.
“However, there are still many aspects we need to improve in, including our standard operating procedure (SOP) and effective communication in a rescue mission,” he said.
The minister said rescue team members should also be trained in handling communications equipment provided to locate victims of disasters and to relay information fast to the call centre.
He also said that under the Blue Ocean Strategy, all related ministries and agencies should know their respective responsibilities in deploying the necessary assistance.
Earlier in his speech, Ahmad Shabery said the world had witnessed many major incidents and calamities in recent years, adding that these catastrophes, both natural and human-related, had caused the loss of lives, displaced people due to destruction of properties and infrastructure, and disrupted daily activities.
He said despite the advancement of technology and modernisation of societies, the impact of these calamities had been greater and more damaging, causing overwhelming challenges to rescuers and emergency medical services dealing with a wide spectrum of clinical and pathological syndromes.
“It has also exposed many inefficiencies and weaknesses of the emergency medical responders at the scene and such uncoordinated and chaotic response reflects the level of disaster preparedness of a nation,” he added.