Next time, if ever an emergency occurs in your area, you need not be a silent spectator because of the sole reason that you are not trained to tackle such situations. Civil Defence (CD), an organisation that is not so well known but is increasingly becoming popular in the city, enables citizens to actively respond in case of emergencies. CD is a government organisation functioning according to the Civil Defence Act, 1968.
Civil Defence Act, 1968
The act provides the basis for the formation of Civil Defence Corps, which it empowers to take any action – not amounting to actual combat – for protecting people and property against hostile attacks, or for depriving such attacks of its whole effect.
The Act was formed in the aftermath of the Chinese aggression in 1962 and the Indo-Pak war in 1965 and hence focused only on war situations initially. Later the Central Government amended the act to enable CD to act during all natural and manmade disasters.
The main functions of the organisation include saving lives, minimising damage to property and keeping up the morale of the public in case of any natural or manmade disaster. It is comprised of citizens who offer voluntary service. The volunteers are trained in programmes such as watermanship, fire fighting, first aid, communications, neighbourhood security, transport and supply management and so on.
The city’s CD group played an active role in rescue work during the recent Carlton Tower fire. Two members participated in the Carlton Tower fire rescue operation. Venkatesh, Divisional Warden for Ramamurthy Nagar and Banaswadi, who participated in the operation, says, "On hearing about the incident, I rushed to the spot with ropes, pulleys and other equipments for rescue. I supplied the equipments to the fire force and also managed to rescue a person from the 12th floor of the building myself. We also helped in cordoning off the area so that the fire force could function properly."
The only requirement to enroll as a CD volunteer is to be a registered voter without any criminal record. A unique aspect of CD is its representation from different communities including students and women, and the flexibility it offers to volunteers.
For enrolling, the citizen has to apply directly at the Civil Defence Headquarters which is located at Ulsoor. The Chief Warden at the headquarters will forward the application to the respective Divisional Warden depending on the area of residence of the applicant. The Divisional Warden will revert to the Chief Warden with his recommendation, after which the Chief Warden will forward the application to the Police Commissioner’s Office. From there, the application is sent to the local police station in the applicant’s area of residence for verification of his/her previous record. Once the police clears the application, it is sent back to the Chief Warden, who will then accept the applicant into the organisation.
No one receives any salary, but get a compensation of Rs 70 for every day they dedicate to the department. This could be for attending meetings, training programmes or participating in rescue or support operations. They report to the Director General of Police (DGP) Jija Madhavan Hari Singh.
Last year, the central government had sanctioned 1 billion rupees for strengthening the organisation in different parts of the country. Currently Bangalore has 4000 volunteers. There are people from different age groups. The prescribed age group is 18-75 years.
Volunteers have to specify the amount of time they can dedicate to the organisation, depending on which further activities will be planned. After the initial induction programme of two days, volunteers can undergo further training.
The Civil Defence Headquarters provides training in 20 disciplines, any of which the volunteers can opt for depending on their abilities and interests. Meetings of all wardens in the city are held in the first Saturday of every month at the Civil Defence Headquarters wherein programmes and plan of action are discussed.
Venkatesh has been active in CD since the 80s and has acquired intensive training in rescue operations. They had also participated in rescue and rehabilitation programmes during last year’s floods in North Karnataka.
Under CD, the city is divided into 50 divisions, with each division having one Divisional Warden, and under him 10 Post Wardens, 10 Deputy Post Wardens and 100 Sector Wardens each. There would be one Sector Warden for every 400 houses. On top of the hierarchy are the Chief Warden and four Deputy Chief Wardens, who are responsible for operations in the whole city.
Chief Warden is appointed by the DGP, Deputy Chief Wardens and Divisional Wardens are appointed by DGP on the recommendation of the Chief Warden.
"With increase in terrorist attacks and security concerns, the city’s 25-year-old CD force is being revamped on war footing. We also plan to give additional self-defence training to women volunteers," says Mohan Rao S, Divisional Warden for Chandra Layout and Vijayanagar Police Station limits.
To volunteer, collect the free enrollment form from Civil Defence Headquarters, Ulsoor or from the NGO Janagraaha. For more details, click here.
Eighteen-year-old Preetham A P, who recently enrolled as a CD volunteer, says, "I joined CD because it gives an opportunity to serve society. In my division there are five to six volunteers of my age. The department is also planning to recruit more young volunteers. The department’s disaster management and crime monitoring programmes are very useful." Preetham has completed training in seven programmes, including watermanship training and rifle training.
The volunteers establish working relationship with the local police to receive information at an agreed upon frequency. They maintain a register to record information such as strangers, new tenants, criminals, suspicious objects/incidents in their respective areas. Other responsibilities include environment conservation, maintaining communal harmony and advising citizens on civil defence.
Civil Defence, Home Guards, Fire & Emergency Services Head Quarters,
Annaswamy Mudaliar Road, Near Ulsoor Lake, Ulsoor
During emergencies, Divisional Wardens will direct volunteers to rush to the spot. Volunteers assist the police/fire department/home guards by cordoning off areas, providing information like area topography, connecting people, securing equipments rescue etc. For tending to small fires, there are House Fire Parties (HFPs) – volunteers with proper training and equipment – for every 300 houses.
"There is active participation from citizens as they get free training to protect themselves and others during emergencies. CD also gives them a platform to address their concerns directly to the police. Also no ones routine is disturbed," says Rao. ⊕