Interview: Atul Karwal, IPS, Director General NDRF
NDRF plans on conducting mock trials across all 700+ districts in the country to prepare all stakeholders in the face of disasters. What key focus areas for these trials and what types of disasters are to be covered?
NDRF in the capacity of lead agency in the field of specialized disaster response is also committed to making India resilient towards disasters. NDRF have been carrying out Mock Exercises in collaboration with a range of institutions/stakeholder/ community/local Govt. to train and educate them in dealing with the perceived disasters that play a major role across the country in terms of disaster response.
NDRF conducted Mock Exercises on various disaster themes across India. In 2020, the Hon’ble Home Minister also emphasized that mock exercises are essential at the ground level and must be conducted in all districts at least once in 3 years.
Every year the NDRF plans a yearly Mock Exercise Calendar and circulates the same to the NDMA, all State authorities, and other stakeholders. In 2022, NDRF planned to conduct 298 Mock Exercises on various themes across the country. Apart from this 49 Mock Exercises with Indian Railways have also been planned. NDRF also conducts MEXs with MAH/PSUs units /Airport authorities on mutual coordination or directions of NDMA etc.
Key focus areas:
a. To review Disaster Management Plan.
b. To evaluate the Disaster Response Plan.
c. To identify the efficacy of MEXs.
d. To highlight the roles and responsibilities of various Stakeholders.
e. Enhance coordination among Emergency Support Functions of various stakeholders.
f. To generate public awareness through the involvement of Local Government, NGOs and the Public.
g. To identify the gaps in resources, manpower, communications and in any other field.
h. To enhance the ability to respond faster.
NDRF conducts Mock Exercises with stakeholders on natural & manmade disasters along with MAH/PSUs units on themes like Collapsed Structure Search & Rescue (CSSR), Flood Water Rescue (FWR), Chemical Biological Radiological & Nuclear emergency (CBRN), Earthquake, Cyclone, Lightening, Landslide, Heat waves etc.
The IDRN, NDMA and NDRF plan on providing decision-makers with reliable, readily available data to combat emergency response. What data set are being disseminated, and how are they helping improve ground-level coordination?
IDRN is a web-based platform, for managing the inventory of equipment, skilled human resources and critical supplies for emergency response. It provides the availability of equipment and human resources available with civil administration and private agencies along with central response agencies required to combat any emergency situation at a particular place. At the time of need during any disaster emergency NDRF can access this portal and may use the resource if needed although NDRF is a self-contained rescue agency having all kinds of modern rescue equipotent. This portal gives an exact picture to the district administration how many resources are available with them with different government and private agencies and can manage them effectively in their time of need.
During cyclones, earthquakes, floods and landslides, the hampering of communication channels often delays response time. What are the existing tools/technologies used by NDRF to improve field capabilities and situational awareness in such conditions?
At the time of the disaster, the conventional communication setup like Mobile phones, landline phones, internet etc goes down. This is where the professionalism of NDRF came and it is different from the civil administration. NDRF has advanced high-tech communication equipment like Quick Deployed Antenna (QDA), Satellite Phones, HF / VHF sets, Body-worn cameras etc.
How is NDRF using drone and satellite imagery for emergency response? Are you facing any challenges in the process?
Drones are presently under consideration in NDRF. NDRF has entered into collaboration with AGNIi Mission Invest India to identify drones which can be effectively used in disasters including delivery drones and other surveillance drones which can work beyond the line of sight in the non-GPS environment. The trial for the drones with start-ups engaged with the AGNIi mission is in process. Further, during the Chamoli Glacial Outburst, some start-ups showcased their capabilities with a view to appreciate ground situations and gauge the required upgradation and capabilities to meet the challenges in the field.
As far as satellite imagery is concerned, various startups provide different mapping and GIS-enabled services to help with disaster preparedness and response coordination with flood modelling on 3D maps. It also provides a 3D mapping of the specific region which can then be used for the previous reference of the structure/ area to compare then and now situations after any disaster which ultimately helps in decision-making by an initial assessment of the situation. The only challenge faced is the availability of real-time imagery after any incident/ disaster.
Your recent field trials with modern technologies like analytics and extended reality portray a very progressive stance. How do you plan to implement these technologies in your operations in the near future?
NDRF is the premium agency in the field of disaster response in the country. We cannot prevent hazards from happening, but can surely prevent them from becoming disasters and when they do happen, to minimise their effect in terms of loss of human lives and damage to infrastructure, by taking preventive and mitigation measures and for that needs to upgrade its equipment as per the latest technology.
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) collaborated with the AGNIi Mission of the Prime Minister’s Science Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC), executed at Invest India under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, held Technology Field Trials at Pune.
The two-day trial comprehensively mapped various Indian emerging technologies to NDRF’s `vast mandate, covering Flood Water Rescue, Collapsed Structure Search and Rescue, Rapid Relief Support to victims and enhanced Situational Awareness during a disaster.
The following Innovations were demonstrated:
Aquatic Capabilities: SONAR is equipped with Remotely Operated Vehicles, Unmanned Marine Surface Vehicles, and High-speed Rescue Lifebuoys for flood-water rescue operations.
Force Training: AR/VR-based disaster scenario module delivered on headsets and controllers for advanced force training.
Resilient Communications: Secured Private LTE Network Systems for alerting authorities, coordinating relief operations, assessing damages and mobilizing support.
Aerial Capabilities: Nano-drones for Collapsed Structure Surveillance, Hybrid Unmanned Gasoline Helicopters for Aerial Mapping and Payload Delivery Autonomous Drones for delivery of essentials.
NDRF is evaluating to adopt the best suitable technology for these initiatives.