Thursday, May 22, 2014

When seconds make a difference

“There can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis.” ― Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking 

Time taken to convey a piece of information to the right receiver can make the difference between life and death. Yesterday midnight as we were about to celebrate a friend's birthday, we saw a woman who looked like an escapee from a mental hospital – white robes, shaven head – walking alone on the road, right against the oncoming traffic, aimlessly looking down. We wondered what to do? My friends suggested we should call the cops. I had the phone number for Sadashivanagar police station. For a brief moment, I hesitated pondering whether it was okay to use my cell phone to make this call. I called up anyway pleading the police to look into the matter. Based on the location details, they told it came under the jurisdiction of Yeshwanthpur police station and gave us the relevant number. On dialing the new number, I was told I'd dialed Jayanagar police station and not Yeshwanthpur. 

Amidst all the confusion, the woman had vanished into the distance by the time we could lodge the information at the right place. The person who received the call at Yeshwanthpur police station earnestly took the details and assured that they'll look into the matter. At least ten minutes had lapsed between our taking notice of the lady and the information being conveyed to the police. We don't know what happened afterwards.

This made me realize the importance of always having the phone numbers of ALL nearby police stations, hospitals, fire stations etc. The time saved in not having to dig out the correct numbers could save a life or at least avert something bad. But there's another question that has been bothering me. Could I have done something myself? Could I have run up to her and talk her into coming to the safety of the footpath? Could I help her reach wherever she actually needed to? I don't know. I probably didn't have the guts. When it comes to crunch situations, it's about split second decisions. And you can never say, until later, whether those decisions were right. 

Knowing how to handle emergencies is a skill in itself, one that few people are trained in. There are cases where people, with all good intentions, have tried to pull out survivors from car wrecks and earthquake rubble only to cause irreparable damage to the already badly injured victims. And instances when in trying to save a drowning friend, the rescuer himself is drowned along with the victim - knowing how to swim and knowing how to rescue a drowning person are two different things. But then, there are bright examples where swift action by the locals helped save several lives in a train mishap. An emergency situation is of danger to the victim as well as the rescuer. So does it all come down to the individual and the particular case at hand? What are your thoughts and recommendations on handling such predicaments? In case of emergencies, how do you make that snap decision on whether YOU do whatever needs to be done or you just convey the information to someone who might be better trained to handle the situation?
In any case, the least you can and must do is to inform someone who you think might alleviate the situation. It's disturbing how so many people chose to ignore and maintain safe distance. If you stay in and around IISc Bangalore, keep these numbers handy. Save them on your cell phones and laptops and PCs. Write them on your diaries and notebooks. Pin them on the wall beside landlines. Even better, remember them.

Toll-free numbers for Bangalore City Police: 100, 103
Malleswaram Police Station: 080-22942519
Sadashivanagar Police Station: 080-22942589
Yeshwanthpur Police Station: 080-22942526
Ramaiah Hospital 080-23608888
Toll-free numbers for ambulance: 102, 108, 1062
Fire Service control room: 080-22971500

For a larger collection of important phone numbers (for Bangalore), see here.
Bangalore City Police has compiled a nice FAQ here.

Over to you!

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