Sunday, January 04, 2015

Disabled and Animals Need Rescuing from Floods

Disabled, animals need help during floods, too

Anthony SB Thanasayan

Anthony SB Thanasayan is a wheelchair user who is powered by his service dogs who help him stay on top of life. He is president of Malaysia's first and only animal-assisted therapy society called Petpositive.
News of the monsoon floods, last week, completely ruined my Christmas mood and celebration.
Although I had decided to have a quiet one at home with my dogs and listening to carols on the Internet, I simply couldn't concentrate.
By Boxing Day on Friday, the number of people displaced by
floods in Kelantan, Terrenganu, Pahang and Perak, rose to a staggering 103,413. It was up by more than 9,000 from the previous night.

And, it is still pouring copious amounts of rain outside, as I write this article. In addition to everything one has to consider about in a tragic flood situation, I couldn't help thinking about two main things: the handicapped, as well as animals caught in the predicament.
How were the disabled and the elderly coping? Are they on the "Priority List" in rescue missions' preparation, evacuation and follow-up programmes?
Or are they overlooked?
Do the village heads or local councils have a list of their names and where to locate them? The handicapped are the ones who need immediate assistance from life-threatening floods.
Neighbours can play a key role in this. If they know of a disabled person in the neighbourhood, they should move in quickly to get them out to safety.
Rescuers need to get into their homes and even rooms to find them. Wheelchairs are no good in water. So they will need to be physically carried.
Better for a trained rescuer to carry individuals. If unsure, ask the
handicapped person the proper way to be carried. This is to ensure that no damage is done to their bodies during the rescue process.
Keep wheelchairs available in rescue shelters. Walking sticks, and other aids, should all be regarded with equal importance as wheelchairs.
In moments of a crisis like this, it is important to help victims feel still "in control" of a situation by providing these aids, rather than making them more dependent on others without them.
Besides, rescuers can't be with them all the time, as there are others needing help, too.
The blind, living alone, are just as vulnerable. Rescuers should call out loudly to them. If they happen to know their names, call out to them.
The deaf, on the other hand, are unable to hear any sounds of danger to alert them. By the time they do, it is often too late.
So the authorities should take this into account by going the extra mile when searching for the disabled. It would also only make good sense to train staff, with a basic knowledge of sign language, which would be a great advantage.
Persons on medications with life-threatening diseases also need special attention. It's important to take them along with you during the rescue.
This will be helpful afterwards in the shelter, as their stay could last days and weeks before the crisis is over. Persons on medication are advised to keep their medicines in a water-proof handy bag in event of emergencies.
I mentioned animals as my second area of concern.
I was thrilled to see some news reports of cats being rescued by our brilliant boys and girls who sacrificed their lives to help the victims of the flooding.
However, at the time of writing this, I never saw any pictures of dogs being rescued. Though I have no doubt, that canine owners would have done the same things with their pets in the crisis.
If there isn't one now, then it's a plain shame.
But I certainly hope that once this flooding problem is over at least, our country will make a serious effort to have a special team to rescue cats and dogs whenever there is a crisis of any kind.
I can think of no better reason than to say it's because we are caring Malaysians that we should do this.
The "Malaysian Animal Rescue Disaster Team" should be set up by the Department of Veterinary Services, along with the respective 151 local councils throughout the nation.
It should be run with utmost professionalism and funded by both the local councils, as well as the federal authority. 
And, as for persons with disabilities and the elderly, there is no more excuse now for not getting dead serious about including the participation of persons with disabilities themselves in disaster management planning, awareness and training of emergency response, of all staff to their special needs. – December 29, 2014.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.
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