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September 16, 2019

Safety in Travelling

(Thinking in Advance for Better Tomorrow)

We learn from the past mistakes. True. But human tend to be lax in following regulations to properly prepare essential measures according to the check lists.  Accidents are happening in many places, in many countries around the world. There are many hazards in our life time. Natural disaster, wars, consequences due to climate change, global warming and greenhouse gases.  Not a single day has passed without bad news about accidents, if one reads any daily newspaper. Hazards, such as fire, traffic & train accidents, airplane crashes, ships sinking, buildings under construction collapse, dangerous poisonous gases leaks from chemical plants happen due to human negligence. Sometimes the calamity may happen accidently. Whatever the reasons the outcome will be catastrophic. Loss of human lives and properties are usual results of those incidents.  We have to have safety in life as much as possible. Safety is protection from illness and accidents.
Decades ago people in a simple village are self sufficient in food, clothing and shelter. They were so satisfied with simple way of life. Travelling to far distances was rare. I was a volunteer teacher of 3R {Ah Thone Lone Programme} in 1972 while I was a university student. I was assigned in a village about 16 miles from Madaya Town in Mandalay Region. I spent in that village of 30 households for one month teaching to the village elders and some youngsters basic writing, reading and calculation. I was provided a bed at the shelf of a cows’ shelter together with a young man of my age from the village. It really struck me the fact that most of the villagers from the village had never been to Mandalay. The farthest distance they travelled, of course by bullock carts, was Sa Gyin village which is about 4 mile form their village to watch Zat Pway and Ah Nyient during pagoda festivals couple of times a year. Few of course travelled often to Madaya Town for selling their farm products, which are mainly ground nuts and forest products. Thinking back, the villagers form that village were quite peaceful, satisfied and not vulnerable to any hazards for they hardly travelled far from their village.
However, we people in modern time have to travel to make living, for education, for recreation, for social and family matters. Information age has brought people form far and remote villages to travel to foreign countries for greener pasture and for attaining better education. People living near the rivers and coastal region usually travel by steamers, express boats, ships to one place to another. Extension of highway and roads allow many citizens to travel from village to village, city to city by cars and buses. Railway is another facility people can travel and carry goods. Other people fly from city to city and from a country to another. Tourists from almost all countries in the world crisscross the continents. Myanmar tourists are now vacationing in Europe, US, Japan and Korea.  Last year our country received more than 3 million tourists. It is good for more employment and income for the business connected to the tourism. Airports are packed with travelers. Bus terminals, railways stations and jetties are full of people travelling every day. People, regardless of foreign tourists or local citizens want and have to be safe with full security in travelling until they reach their destinations.  The travelers have to use different types of vehicles, which are manmade.  Any manmade machines need to function correctly. There are responsible people, managers, supervisors at all levels, operators, drivers, ship captains, aircraft pilots, to make manmade machines function satisfactorily and correctly. Safety regulations are there but following them strictly is very important. Any laxity should not be tolerated by law enforcing bodies. Organizations, publicly or privately owned, proving services in travelling/transport sector have safety regulations, guidelines, check lists and rescue and response packages. Yet accidents sadly happened in many parts of the world.
The following is some of most deadly accidents happened in Asia and Africa. They are widely publicized due to their serious nature in recent public transport history in the world. On 27 March 1977, runway collision between 2 Boeing 747 aircraft at Loa Rados on Spanish island of Tenerife had killed all 583 passengers and air crews due to failure in communication while the runway was under thick fog with very poor visibility. That was the deadliest accidents in aviation history. Another aviation accident took place in Japan on 12 August 1985 killing 520 people. Japan Airline domestic passenger flight Boeing 747 was flying from Tokyo to Osaka and due to mechanical failure crashed into mount Takamagahara, in Ueno Gunma Prefecture.  Very recently, in last year April, a ferry ship MV Sewol, carrying hundreds of passengers including many school children, capsized killing 304 people. The worst rail accident in Africa happened on 14 January 1985 in Awash, Afar, Ethiopia. The train plunged into a ravine and killing 428 passengers. On 2 August 1999, 2 trains carrying a total of 2,500 passengers collided at Gaisal, 310 miles from the city of Gauhati, Assam State in India, killing 285 people.  In our world there are risks to our safety in daily life. In family homes, going to work and school, travelling to other places for recreation, we have to be very cautious and aware of the risk as well as threats and vulnerabilities. Disaster management experts have formulated the linkage between risk, threat and vulnerability as follow.
Risk Assessment
Because Risks are always out there in our world, the organizations need to make risk assessment for their public services. Risk in other words is likelihood of causing illness and encountering accidents. Risk = Threat (External) x Vulnerability (Internal). When Risks and Threats are given, only Vulnerability can be influenced. Risks are always there in certain degree and Threats, in transport sector, could be translated into wide open sea with rough waves, hilly narrow and winding roads, flying in night time, poor visibility, bad weather etc. In above mathematical equation, if we can reduce Vulnerability, Risk can be minimized. What are the Vulnerabilities? In Vulnerability assessment there are 4 main areas to be scrutinized. (1) What components are most vulnerable? (2) Why are those components vulnerable? (3) Where are those vulnerable components? (4)When do those components become vulnerable? There may be hundreds of components which are vulnerable to many conditions but people can prioritize them. If all vulnerable components are safe and functioning well, the Risk of encountering accidents is minimum.
Design Loading
All vehicles used in the transport sector have maximum allowable loading according to the design of the vehicles. You cannot carry 200 people in an aircraft with 150 seats and the additional 50 people are supposed to be seated with potable chairs in between the seats! No operators or authorities will allow this to happen. The same applies to cars, buses and ships, steamers. Many local media reported that it was apparent that overloading with passengers and goods was one of the many causes for the drowning of Aung Tagon (3) steamer in the sea off Rakhine coast recently. But in our country basses carry more people than prescribed number of passengers on our high ways. 6 Ton trucks have been modified crudely with additional leaf springs to carry goods more than 6 Tons. Therefore, overloading is very dangerous and prone to cause accident.
Check lists
Before starting the journey responsible people and or operators of all vehicles, steamers, aircrafts must have gone through the check lists. Check list are very important to ensure all equipments, tools, fuel, water, spare parts, life boats, life jackets, oxygen masks, communication radios, other navigation tools such as GPS, light signals, food, drinking water etc. are fully in place and in good conditions. All public and private transport operators have to follow this institutionalized check lists.
In modern days advanced communication tools and equipment such as mobile phones, emails, GPS devices, satellite communication can play a very crucial role in the preparation, actual travelling, navigation, avoiding hazards, and even in rescue operations to minimize casualties.  It is therefore essential to equip all public transport vehicles, steamers, boats with modern communication gadgets which are now much affordable and easily available in the market.
Reference
1.    The Mirror Daily newspapers by Ministry of Information
2.    http://www.bbc.com/news/

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