The National Disaster Response Force or NDRF - whose mantra is 'saving lives and beyond' - has come up with a new Standard Operating Procedure during floods, keeping in mind the COVID-19 guidelines.
Thermal screening has been made mandatory by the NDRF for all the evacuees being shifted from a flood situation to a safer location.
The NDRF felt the need for a new SOP after 76 NDRF personnel got infected during Cyclone Amphan in West Bengal.
"Flood Water Rescue is going to be a very challenging task during the COVID-19 times. That is why this new SOP has been drafted," a senior functionary in the Ministry of Home Affairs told NDTV.
The official said the new rule book talks about activation, operational deployments, deactivation and handling of both symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 patients.
"The NDRF teams are first respondents during floods. Hence, the are bound to come in contact with a large number of people. The objective of this new SOP is to form a new action plan regarding deployment, sanitisation of men and material and evacuation maintaining social distancing," explained the officer.
The new rule book of these Standard Operating Procedures, which the disaster response force has circulated for flood evacuation, has been accessed by NDTV. As per the document, not just thermal screening but a questionnaire of COVID-19 symptoms can also be handed out to the evacuees.
"During mass mobilisation or evacuation, social distancing must be followed in vehicles, boats and rafts by utilising only 50 percent of the capacity," states the new flood disaster response SOP.
According to it, during the flood season, all those rescued should wear PPE kits and the commander should ensure that the rescuers are being rotated. "During operations, the teams have been advised to use two boats and rescuers have been asked not to spit anywhere," said a senior officer.
The officer mentioned above said that as per the new rules, plastic sheets should be used in every boat for the sitting purpose of evacuees, so that they can be easily sanitised later.
A strict protocol for evacuation of those with a positive test result or showing COVID-19 symptoms has also been chalked out. A special PPE kit with face shield, gloves, mask eye protection would be carried by the NDRF rescue team. "These people would be evacuated in a separate boat with a minimum number of rescuers. The commander has also been instructed to make arrangements for an ambulance at receiving end," the officer added.
The SOP also spells out the dos and don'ts during resuscitation of COVID-19 patients. "The face of the victim should be turned away during the process, so that the rescuer doesn't come in touch with any fluid from the patient's body," states the SOP.
In 2019, a series of floods between the months of July and August had affected 13 states across the country. As many as hundreds of people died and lakhs were displaced in the floods, according to the Home Ministry data.