Everyday we find road accidents and many other emergencies leading to loss of life and property which is much higher than the loss due to war or internal terrorists attack. There is a method to save over a million lives every year and prevent the associated damages,” said Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam during an address in 2007.
The late Dr. Kalam called for establishing a nationwide emergency medical service on the lines of ‘108’ service in Andhra Pradesh to save one million lives. He wanted the national service to be a decentralized one with each state having its own service and asked public and private companies, doctors and citizens, to contribute. To date, over 11,500 precious lives have been saved and the average response time between receiving a call and reaching a hospital has been reduced to 36 minutes.
The training and messages of this visionary man continue to be an inspiration to many, even today. During an interview with Rajesh R. Trivedi, the Managing Trustee of ALERT, he shares his experience with Dr. Kalam, who gave him guidance while setting out on the ALERT journey.
“We are very fortunate that we got to interact with somebody as visionary as Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. When we met him, we were in the formative years of our learning when we just had raw passion, and we wanted to solve this problem of saving lives,” says Rajesh.
They had a blueprint, and their plan was to train as many people as possible. The very first thing that inspired them to share more with him was his childlike inquisitiveness to learn more from ALERT. He believed that theirs was a fantastic initiative but understood that ALERT was simply born out of raw passion. He told them something important which brought their focus back to what they set out to do.
He was the Chairman Emeritus of 108 at that point of time and suggested that they visit 108 as his guest and learn what they’re doing. While it is one thing to address the issue between the time the event occurs till the time professional help arrives, it is an absolutely different thing from the time help arrives till you take the person to treasury healthcare.
“We were trying to be a bit ambitious to try to chew more than what we could have taken at that point of time. We went to 108 and what we saw there was phenomenal work – the kind of infrastructure that was being set up and the kind of scalability that was possible in this country. We realized that it’s probably not worthwhile putting all our energy into reinventing the wheel and achieving the kind of scale that 108 was already set up to do,” recalls Rajesh.
Rajesh says, “Looking back, probably Dr. Kalam already knew that it was what we were supposed to be doing, but he did not give it away like that. He made us think, he made us go visit the 108 campus, he made us learn what they’re doing and when we came back with that kind of learning, he made us commit back to our area of focus which I think was a phenomenal thing that he did.“
From then on, ALERT got into designing training programs, to suit all sorts of audiences, all the way from homemakers to auto rickshaw drivers to the Indian post guard and it was due to the association with Dr. Kalam that a few doors, which would have been so difficult otherwise, opened up.
The power of vision and the adoption of that path through experiential research is what Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam provided to this organization. What drives ALERT to move forward is a simple statement by Dr. Kalam, that still rings in their ears- ‘train one in every family in medical emergency response.’ This is the mission that they have set out to achieve as an entire organization in the years to come.