Jigmi Wangdi

The Bhutan Red Cross Society (BRCS) has been making significant strides in areas of disaster management and emergency response since its inception in 2017, playing a vital role in serving as an auxiliary channel in communities around the country. 

The BRCS marked its seventh foundation day yesterday, coinciding with the World Red Cross Red Crescent Day. 

The event brought together a total of 45 branch co-ordinators to deliberate on matters crucial to humanitarian efforts in the communities and will undergo extensive capacity-building training as part of the community disaster response preparedness initiative. 

The impacts of BRCS are evident in the country. So far, approximately 12,000 people have benefited through disaster response and restoration works in six branches, 158,476 people benefited through various social services like crowd management, waste management, meal preparation, etc. and 10 blood donation camps were organised where 491 blood units were donated by volunteers, among others. 

The secretary general of BRCS, Dragyel Tenzin Dorjee, said: “We can see, even today, how we get heavy rainfall although it is not monsoon yet, which can cause natural disasters. We are also preparing our volunteers on what to do if an earthquake were to occur.”

He added that a focus was to enhance services in the community by training the community response teams in the country. 

Dragyel Tenzin said that the main objective for this year was to empower the branch coordinators. “This is because if there is a disaster or emergency in the dzongkhags, they are part of the dzongkhag disaster management response mechanism.” 

The training was focused on gearing up and preparing the co-ordinators to be able to lead as disaster responders, Dragyel Tenzin said. 

“The basic thumb rule, which is called the golden hour in emergency response, is 72 hours to carry out a quick response. For this reason, we want to ensure our coordinators are professionally trained. The two-day training will further enhance their capacity and disaster preparedness,” Dragyel Tenzin said. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, BRCS carried out many initiatives that contributed to controlling the spread of the virus. 

“It was a good opportunity for BRCS to solicit and commit our services. Our specialised services, such as body management and cremation grounds services during the pandemic are some examples. Another service was the ride for health, where we converted our taxi volunteer base into temporary ambulances,” Dragyel Tenzin said. 

He added that BRCS services during natural disasters expand from search and rescue to emergency responses. 

As per the BRCS Strategy 2030, the focus will be on stationing at least five professionally trained volunteers in 205 gewogs. So far, BRCS has around 8,000 volunteers in the country.