Emergency service workers are the critical people needed during disasters hence the need to resource and equip them to protect their lives and limps as they save that of others.

“Emergency service workers would be on the front line responding to an emergency with greater threat to life probably than the battlefield.”

Colonel Samuel Bel-Nono, Director, General Headquarters Medical Department, Burma Camp, made the observation when delivering a paper on “Preparing Those in Harm’s Way; Protecting First Responders During a Pandemic and Other Disasters”, at the five-day National Pandemic Response Tabletop Exercise at Elmina.

He said it was only logical that these people in harm’s way- first responders- are adequately prepared and protected to enable them offer their services to the public especially the young, aged and the weak.

Col. Bel-Nono explained that protecting first responders was not enough if their families were not protected, adding, ‘They should not be taken for granted’.

“For first responders, the goal is to protect the emergency service or function that is performed by the emergency service responder and they in turn, protect their families, workplace and the community at large,” he added.

He noted that first responders had a critical role in both pre-hospital and hospital emergency care in communities during disasters.

“Most preparedness plans however fail to acknowledge the occupational safety and health protection needs of the first responder”.

Col. Bel-Nono appealed to corporate bodies and stakeholders to create shelters for sick families so that employees would be confident that their families were cared for while they were at work.

The workshop is to assist government in identifying gaps in existing pandemic plans, facilitate the development of a comprehensive national pandemic preparedness and response plan and lay the groundwork for building a future disaster response capacity.

It is designed to assist the over 60 participants drawn from the West African Sub-Region; Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo and Ghana, in the identification of shortfalls and gaps in the existing plans and provide recommendations for building national and regional capacity.

The exercise was developed by the Centre for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine, and supported by the United States Africa Command, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Government of Ghana. GNA

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