Training first responders in Bangladesh

by RedR
Copyright RedR/GMB Akash
Copyright RedR/GMB Akash

Torrential rains in Bangladesh throughout summer 2013, followed by widespread flooding into September 2013, formed an apt backdrop to RedR's community-based disaster risk management training, which was completed this autumn.  During the week-long training, 18 participants learned about:

  • assessing disaster risks and the process of disaster risk management,
  • disaster management planning,
  • disaster preparedness,
  • the role and involvement of the community before and after a disaster,
  • forming community-based organizations (CBOs),
  • the distinction between hazard & disaster,
  • vulnerability in a disaster,
  • hazard mapping,
  • and how community-based disaster management contributes to development.

Ten volunteer first-responders who had been involved in recovery efforts after the Rana Plaza factory collapse participated in the training, giving them the opportunity to learn about how to form their own community-based organisation. Volunteers also had the opportunity to network with staff of national and international NGOs, who also attended the training.  Rakib Hassan, one of the volunteer first responders at Rana Plaza, commented, “This course brought a combination of good facilitator, participants from NGOs who had expert opinions and experience and volunteers together which helped everyone with proper knowledge sharing.” The NGOs represented were Srotodhara Foundation, PASA, SAFE, Surhid, BRAC, and KBSSS. 

The course participants gave the course and trainers a 100% approval rating in all areas, including course content, teaching, materials, and teaching methods. All participants attested that the training had improved their knowledge, skills, and understanding of disaster risk management.  Also, every trainee felt that the course was relevant to them and their work.

Dalower Hossain, Programme Coordinator at KBSSS said, “Now I am a trained person on how to handle this type of hazard situation.”

When asked for his opinion about the best aspect of the course, Shahadat Hussein, the volunteer first-responder who contacted us for help, praised RedR's signature “Interactive methods and group works.

AZM Ridoan, another volunteer, remarked, “The best aspect of the course was group works and discussion in combination with the slide show and videos. We have gained a lot of knowledge from the facilitators as well as the fellow participants. Now, we can handle a tough situation much better way.” 

Thanks to our amazing supporters who made RedR's expert training possible, these volunteers are skilled-up and ready to respond to flooding, building collapse, or any other natural or man-made disasters that hit Bangladesh in the coming months and years. Thank you again for your life-saving support.


Hazard-mapping a town. Copyright RedR/GMB Akash
Hazard-mapping a town. Copyright RedR/GMB Akash
Presenting group work. Copyright RedR/GMB Akash
Presenting group work. Copyright RedR/GMB Akash
Interactive training. Copyright RedR/GMB Akash
Interactive training. Copyright RedR/GMB Akash
Engaged in training. Copyright RedR/GMB Akash
Engaged in training. Copyright RedR/GMB Akash
Sadak (left) was rescued by Shahadat (right)
Sadak (left) was rescued by Shahadat (right)

Thanks to the contributions of many RedR supporters, we have been able to a week's training in Community-based Disaster Risk Reduction for people who had volunteered as rescuers after the Rana Plaza collapse in April.

The course covered topics such as Search and Rescue, Disaster Management, Fire and Safety, and First Aid. Members of the volunteer first responder group participated in the training, learning a range of skills which will help when they respond to future disasters.

RedR offered this training in response to a request from Shahadat Hussein, a Bangladeshi man who had just spent five days and nights pulling survivors from the wreckage of the collapsed iRana Plaza garment factory collapse in Dhaka.

Shahadat is not an employee of the country’s emergency services, nor is he an aid worker. He is a local man who runs a hardware business. When news of the collapsed garment factory broke on local television, he quickly realised that not enough was being done to rescue workers trapped inside the building. He decided to volunteer alongside hundreds of other local people.

Shahadat and the other volunteers saved many lives before the Bangladeshi army stepped in and took over. They improvised search and rescue methods, using their own equipment to drill through the layers of concrete trapping the victims. They worked for hours at a time without proper protection – in dark, airless cavities with no water, boots or hard hats.

“When we found someone still alive inside the building, we did our level best to save that life. This was not an expert rescue. We improvised solutions using any equipment we could.”
-Shahadat Hussein

Shahadat was right to seek professional training. The Rana Plaza disaster will not be a one-off occurrence. In June a survey conducted by engineers in Bangladesh revealed that three-fifths of the country’s 600 garment factories are poorly constructed and vulnerable to collapse.

All photos © RedR/GMB Akash

Training volunteer rescue workers in Bangladesh
Training volunteer rescue workers in Bangladesh
Rescue workers search through the factory rubble
Rescue workers search through the factory rubble

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Organization Information


Location: London, n/a - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Helen Varma
London, United Kingdom

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