First Medical Responders programme was piloted in 2011. The name of the programme was changed from First Medical Responders (FMR) to Social & Emergency Response Volunteers (SERV). The SERVs have been able to demonstrate their volunteering services in the recent disasters in Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand floods, J&K floods, Odisha cyclone Phailin, Tamil Nadu floods, Kerala floods and several other interventions. The volunteers worked closely with the local administration to provide search and rescue services and also distributed relief material and provided shelter to the people affected by the disasters.
India is one of the highly prone nations which is vulnerable to almost all types of disasters. There is a paradigm shift all over the world including India, from response centric approach to a holistic approach with focus on prevention, mitigation and preparedness. It is not possible to prevent all disasters, but it is certainly possible to undertake preventive measures and prepare the community to mitigate the impact disasters. IRCS has undertaken a series of measures to achieve its objectives. There are a number of projects and programmes which are being implemented through various state and district branches. These projects and programmes are either funded by national headquarters or by other donors. However, the size and scale of these programmes are limited. Some of these programmes are going on for quite some time and have established their usefulness. Therefore, in order to build resilience in the community and to make an impact it is felt that while the existing programmes may continue. IRCS NHQ should focus on one project and implement it in a big way.
It is in this context that SERV is proposed to be implemented in all the state branches in a big way. SERV is an important initiative in many different ways. This programme ensures direct linkages of IRCS with the communities as the volunteers are selected from their own communities. The volunteers trained from within the community are available to provide immediate support in golden hours till the formal response agencies reach. This has been evident during various disasters/emergencies in recent past where SERVs were able to demonstrate their usefulness. Programme also helps in strengthening relations with the local government departments and other stakeholders.
Concept of SERV:
The concept of SERV is premised upon the principles of Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction (CBDRR). It recognizes that:
- 1. Communities understands their problems and opportunities than anyone else,
- 2. Community is more interested to understand their problems than anyone else,
- 3. Community is the key stakeholder for development of the country, hence it has to participate for their own development,
- 4. Local communities are capable of initiating and sustaining their own community development.
To contribute to this aim, SERV volunteers will:
- 1. Provide immediate relief and response to the affected communities before additional support from the government and other agencies arrives,
- 2. Reduce vulnerabilities of the communities by training the communities on first-aid, hygiene promotion, etc.,
- 3. Conduct vulnerability and capacity assessment of their own communities,
- 4. Support any other identified social issues that contribute to the development of the communities.
It is envisaged that the SERVs will be trained as per prescribed modules pertaining to deliver the following:
- • Act as First Responders in times of emergencies, (participate in providing effective humanitarian services to affected population to prevent and alleviate their sufferings on behalf of the IRCS)
- • Sensitize the community to make them more resilient to disasters to which the community is vulnerable.
- • Facilitate linkages between the community and the Government programmes.