x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

'We're best placed to know what is required'

The Health Authority Abu Dhabi uses its command centre to monitor large-scale gatherings, co-ordinating efforts to protect public safety.

ABU DHABI // The operations centre has rated seven events as "mass gatherings" this year. Four were music concerts and the rest were sports related.

For any major event the centre is alerted beforehand, to ensure all available resources are mobilised and ready.

"Such large-scale events can easily overwhelm a hospital if all the injured are taken to one place, or just the nearest place, so we have to establish medical emergency preparedness," Dr Ajith George, the director of the centre, said.

"We have set a standard for mass gatherings that is the minimum requirement needed to ensure the healthcare needs are met should an accident occur.

"We gather as much information as we can before the event, and we alert all healthcare facilities that a concert, for example, is happening from this time to this time."

The centre ensures that first-aid stations, ambulances, paramedics, doctors and nurses are all present at an event, and helps organisers to decide what resources are necessary.

"We take everything into consideration: the nature of the event, whether the venue is indoors or outdoors or in a confined location like a park or spread out in the streets, whether people will be standing or sitting or both, what is the expected profile of the audience and whether there will be a lot of elderly there, what are the expected numbers, and so on," Dr George said.

The centre is equipped to evaluate the big picture and plan a response should a disaster or emergency arise.

"We have satellite images that show us the area, tell us what is near, where a helicopter can land if needed, where a makeshift clinic can be set up," Dr George said.

The biggest challenge, he said, was to make sure those involved understood that all information must come from the operations centre.

"We are in a better situation to assess everything and tell ambulances exactly where they have to go, so that we can save the most people possible."