Medical academy to offer training in disaster response

Officials to be taught how to deal with bomb attack on marathon or nuclear reactor meltdown

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2014, 4:14am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2014, 12:52pm

The Hong Kong Academy of Medicine plans to offer training to top officials in how to manage a citywide response to a large-scale disaster such as the recent gas explosions in Taiwan or the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown in Japan.

Dr Donald Li Kwok-tung, the academy's president, said Hong Kong lacked a "captain" who was trained to lead the entire emergency services network - including rescuing victims, treating patients, diverting commuters, protecting public safety, moving resources and communicating with the public.

He expected the leaders of bureaus including food and health, security and home affairs, to be equipped with key disaster-response skills.

"It is time for Hong Kong to be better prepared for disasters," Li said. "The city is densely populated. Once these incidents happen, there could be massive casualties … The aftermath of such tragedies could be profound."

He said the academy was "hoping to take a leading role in preparing the community for how to handle these situations".

The city will also likely be the first in the world to develop an accreditation system for organisations and individuals that prove they are trained to effectively carry out emergency relief measures in a disaster, Li said.

As part of its five-year plan, the academy intends to develop a framework with Harvard University to better equip the city for a natural or man-made disaster.

Li said the city had experience in handling some crises, such as the ferry sinking off Lamma Island and the Sars outbreak. But it should be prepared for larger-scale disasters such as a bomb attack in the annual marathon, an Ebola outbreak, or a meltdown at the Daya Bay nuclear reactor in Shenzhen.

The training programme, which starts on November 1, will offer comprehensive courses to members of the public, medics, emergency relief workers and key government officials. Courses vary in length from weeks to months, and the academy hopes to train a total of 30,000 people over five years.

Citizens who find themselves in a disaster "should know what is the best way to react rationally," Li said. "The course will teach them whether they should respond by running for their own lives, or stay to save the others and in what way they could help."

Among top government officials, Li said it was crucial to have leaders who are trained to mobilise resources from different departments.

They should also be trained on how to manage information in order to be transparent while avoiding panic.

The academy is also in talks with the World Health Organisation to develop the accreditation system to officially qualify workers and non-government organisations for relief work.