The Northern Railway is set to overhaul the way it responds to emergency rescue operations.
So, instead of walky-talkies, rail officials on board all trains will get GPRS-enabled mobile phones to send distress signals. Specially designed coaches with machines to rescue victims trapped inside tripped coaches will travel to spots, and "Ground-Zero" officials like guards, drivers and linesmen will be trained to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The changes will be implemented in a phased manner.
Right now, whenever a disaster occurs, the railways rely on a massive communication network to gather vital information about the details of the accident. "The driver of the train concerned informs the nearest station through either walky-talky or by using the connection in any nearby telegraph pole. The station informs the divisional headquarters, which in turn briefs the zonal headquarter," Rajiv Saxena, spokesman of Northern Railway, said. Only then are medical coaches, doctors and restoration units are dispatched to the accident site.
The problem with the existing set up is that during an emergency, slow communication tools, like walky-talky or telegraph poles, cause delay. Added to that are the layers of authorities that information has to go through.
As a pilot project to be started by March, officials on board any train on the Palwal-Ambala route in the Northern Railways network will be equipped with the special phones, which the railways plan to acquire at a cost of Rs 7 crore. "The phones will have unique IDs encoded in them so that a call to the control centre generates the train name, location of accident and other relevant information. Its use also bypasses many layers of the communication network," Saxena said.
"With the new system in place, the time between the accident and the launch of rescue operations could be minimised by 50 per cent because even before rescue and medical teams arrive, the Ground Zero staff will have already initiated the process thanks to their training in CPR," he said.