Disaster management through mobile phone helplines

Peter Adeyeye, Lagos Community Manager
Lagos, 5 May 2016

Smart city initiatives include a broad range of services that leverage digital technologies in boosting the quality of lives of residents of a city. Lagos, as one of the fastest growing megacities in the world, has been exploring technologically driven initiatives for delivering public services. For instance, the Governor elect, Akinwumi Ambode, in his election manifesto promised “greater attention to traffic/road management, using technology and e-traffic.” Since assuming office, he has been launching several initiatives to make the city smarter, including approving the installation of 10,000 CCTV cameras to reduce crimes.

Managing urban areas has become one of the most important development challenges of this century. Worldwide statistics reveal the increasing number of disasters and its impact on lives and properties. The Lagos state government, over time, has set up various agencies to manage the different emergencies that may arise in the city as part of its commitment to securing citizen’s welfare. As a response to the increasing number of medical emergencies in the city, the state government established the Lagos State Emergency Medical Service (LASEMS) and the Lagos State Ambulance Services (LASAMBUS) in 2001. The two services run on a continuous basis with provision of free treatment within the first 24 hours of emergencies. The project works with a radio-communication network that links the public, the two services and the state ministry of health together. A phone hotline (112 or 767) has also been dedicated to these services in order to facilitate fast communication whenever there is a medical emergency. There are 25 operational points of the ambulance service scattered around the city in order to aid easy emergency response. Some of the ambulances also have additional mobile intensive care unit (MICU) with capacity to administer advanced life support for critical cases. The services have been noted to lead to “significant improvement in the response time and quality of care with attendant improvement in morbidity and mortality rates occasioned by medical emergencies” in the city.

The Lagos Directory Online is a website that is dedicated to providing contacts and addresses of Lagos government ministries. It provides emergency mobile contacts for emergency services such as fire services, women’s domestic violence helpline, child abuse helpline, distress or collapsed buildings, air ambulances and medical crew. It also provides contacts of agencies that are related to disaster management, such as the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) – an environmental law enforcement agency – and the Lagos State Transport Management Authority (LASMA).

The introduction of these hotlines have not only been helpful to victims of disaster but also offers hope to citizens of the possibility of fast response if confronted with emergencies at any time. In 2015, govTechnology, an international organization promoting digital innovation, revealed that the call centrers in Lagos receives about five-million calls monthly, which emphasizes the critical role these hotlines play in reverting mortality and morbidity. It will, however, be good if the various distress numbers can be merged into a single emergency number that can serve various purposes and can be easily remembered in cases of emergencies. Lagos government should also be willing to adopt smart technologies to other area of public services in fostering a faster, more reliable and efficient communication system to basic infrastructure and provisions in the city.

Photo credit: Lagos State Ministry of Health

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