Islamabad — Rescue 1122 took longer to respond to an emergency on average in most Punjab districts in 2017 compared to 2013, as the rescue service saw a rise in the number of emergencies reported to it across the province.
In total, Rescue 1122 responded to 279,858 more incidents in 2017 than in 2013 across its 37 units in Punjab.
Records shared by the Punjab Emergency Service show the average response time per incident also went up by one minute and 13 seconds in this five-year period.
The Punjab Emergency Service, which operates the Rescue 1122 helpline, shared data with Media for Transparency in response to a Right to Information (RTI) request.
Note: The overall response time figure reported here is an average of the averages of all districts for five years and should only be considered an estimate of the actual overall average response time.
The increase in average response time pales in comparison with the increase in reported emergencies. The rising response times are also not uniform across the various districts and often do not correlate with major increases in number of reported emergencies, the data shows.
But these findings offer an opportunity for the Punjab Emergency Service to identify geographical areas that need immediate attention and improve its rescue operations.
The largest increase in average response time per incident between 2013 and 2017 was recorded in district Vehari. There the average response time jumped to 9 minutes and 30 seconds in 2017 from only 3 minutes in 2013 as the number of emergencies doubled to around 12,600 from nearly 6,200.
In nearby Khanewal district, the average response time increased by 3 minutes 30 seconds during the same five years, which might be due to a 150% increase in the number of reported emergencies.
Ten districts, however, showed a decrease in average response time per emergency. Among these, most notable were Mianwali (2 minutes 10 seconds), Muzaffargarh (1 minute 35 seconds), and Nankana Sahib (1 minute 30 seconds). Each of these three districts also saw the number of emergencies more than double between 2013 and 2017.
While Mianwali and Nankana Sahib are some of Punjab’s least populated districts, Muzaffargarh has a population of over 4 million, indicating there is no straight-forward link between response times and number of emergencies and population. Instead a complex set of factors, including geographical distances, traffic, and the location of Rescue 1122 units, might influence response times.
Even then, in every single one of its 36 Punjab district units and tehsil Murree, the Rescue 1122 witnessed an increase in the number of incidents reported to it between 2013 and 2017 — a possible sign of the citizens’ growing trust and dependence on the rescue service.
Overall, Rescue 1122 responded to nearly 3.2 million emergencies in five years in the Punjab province and rescued around 3.7 million people, according to official data.
The rise in the total number of emergencies, including road traffic accidents, with the passage of time is one of the leading factors that hinder the efficiency of the Rescue 1122, said Jam Sajjad Hussain, the head of Public Relations for the Punjab Emergency Service.
According to the data, the total number of road traffic accidents increased to 265,510 in 2017 as compared to 182,972 accidents reported in 2013.
But traffic accidents make up only one-third of the number of emergencies reported to the rescue service annually.
The majority of incidents the Rescue 1122 units responded to were medical emergencies. Medical emergencies increased to 404,545 in 2017 from 251,098 in 2013 — a 61% increase in five years.
Mr. Hussain said most of the medical emergencies reported to Rescue 1122 only require first-aid attention. But it takes some effort to reach the site of these medical emergencies.
“Our ambulances find it difficult to reach the place of emergency due to traffic conditions especially in areas that have narrow streets and broken roads,” he said.
In order to tackle this problem, Rescue 1122 launched a motorbike ambulance service in October 2017.
“We were successful in reducing our response time from nine minutes to less than four minutes after launching moto-ambulance service,” Mr. Hussain said.
The Punjab Emergency Service is also looking to improve its response to road traffic accidents.
The data shows that Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Gujranwala, and Rawalpindi are the five districts where the most road traffic accidents took place in the past five years. Rescuers in Lahore responded to 230,014 accidents, and the service followed up on 110,093 accidents in Faisalabad.
Mr. Hussain said the service is trying to build more stations so its ambulances can cover more areas. The Rescue 1122 started construction of six new stations in Lahore in 2016, according to a news report.
The majority of traffic accidents reported to Rescue 1122 involve motorcyclists, Mr. Hussain said.
“Most of the time, either bikers were not wearing a helmet or they were breaking the signal,” he said.
Mr. Hussain said he believes the problem lies in the hands of the law-enforcement agencies who fail to implement the traffic laws and issue fines to violators.
Although the Rescue 1122 average response time has increased, there is also an increase in the number of patients rescued.
The service rescued 875,738 patients in the year 2017 compared to 634,088 patients in 2013, the data shows.
The rescue service also documented responding to incidents of fire, crime, drowning, building collapse, and explosions.
The most number of drowning cases were reported from Lahore (373) in the five years. The highest annual number of drowning inidents there was 80 in 2017. Mr. Hussain said most drowning cases are reported in the summer season and involve the Lahore canal.
“There is a zero percent survival rate in drowning cases,” he said. “We only found dead bodies in the canals.”
The rescue service also responded to thousands of fire incidents across Punjab between 2013 and 2017. The number of fire emergencies increased to 16,455 incidents in 2017 from 10,878 in 2013.
Punjab Emergency Service Director General Rizwan Naseer said the increase in fire incidents was due to unplanned urbanisation and violation of fire safety building codes, according to a news report. The example of Murree, which has witnessed rapid commercialisation, fits the description given by Mr. Naseer.
The number of reported fire incidents in Murree went up to 85 in 2017 from 36 in 2013, according to the Rescue 1122 data.
The data also mentioned 34,415 miscellaneous incidents in the five years. Mr. Hussain said these incidents include all instances where the cause is uncertain, such as hit-and-run cases and people found dead or injured due to unknown reasons.
Cover image: Rescue 1122 workers prepare to respond to a fire incident in Lahore. Photo courtesy Punjab Emergency Service (Rescue 1122).