While International Newspapers spent the election days succumbing to sensationalism by digging up shocking images of post-election protests from 2007, we - in Flare's Nairobi office - did not need a reminder. We had been preparing for the elections and had worked hard with our partners (ambulances and hospitals) to design a plan in case anything similar were to happen in 2017.
In a time when mass casualties and fatalities are a plausible risk, emergency response needs to be fully coordinated, to ensure that:
That information about the safety and security of locations is shared openly between ambulance providers and hospitals before teams are dispatched to help.
Misinformation is rapidly diffused to avoid wasting precious resources on situations where they are not required.
There is a chain of communication between the ambulances and the hospitals to ensure patients are transported to places where they can receive care as soon as they arrive.
That adequate resources are deployed to the scene as fast as possible, but there isn’t an excess of resources deployed to any one scene.
To ensure such coordination would be in place, we worked with the major ambulance companies and main hospitals in Nairobi, meeting several times before the elections. This group of emergency providers and responders included public and private ambulance companies and hospitals, the County government, and the National Disaster Management Unit.
From there, we developed an efficient coordination system to be followed by providers and responders during the election period. We set up the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in our Flare office several days before the election and distributed radios to each agency to ensure 24/7 communication uptime, even if networks were to go down. We also established a city-wide Whatsapp group between ambulances, hospitals, government officials, and the National Disaster Management Unit. Finally, all the ambulances were monitored through the Flare Dispatch Platform to coordinate an efficient response based on ambulance locations and to speed up response times.
Flare's founders, Caitlin and Maria, spent the week leading up to the election ensuring everyone was fully briefed and on-boarded and managed the EOC 24/7 for the duration of the election period.
“Setting up a pop-up EOC was no easy task, and it was only possible through the commitment and support of our partner ambulance companies and hospitals”, said Caitlin.
All these efforts paid off. From election day (Tuesday, August 8th) onward, all the partners were available on the radio 24/7 and leveraged the Whatsapp and Flare platforms to coordinate. This lasted for more than a week until everything was back to normal in Nairobi and across Kenya. Thanks to this system our companies were able to find backup support when they were at capacity and confirm in real-time the status of different areas and roads in Nairobi and their level of security and safety.
We received appreciation for the work and the impact it had from our partners:
“They had a major role today in facilitating the process of spotting an incident and liaising with ambulances for a quick response” - MD from Coptic Hospital
“The past week has been so well coordinated. Am proud to be associated with this team.” - Director at KK Security
“I have been following from a distance and I must commend you all for your passion and commitment to humanity. You will not be on the headlines now or even after this period but a good deed does not increase in value by being publicized however it is recorded at a higher place. Be blessed.” - Head of Kenya Council of EMTs
In the end, we are extremely glad that the situation did not unravel on a large scale and that we did not have to live through the same events that happened in 2007. And we are extremely saddened by the lives that were lost, and for the people who were hurt in the incidents that broke out.
This was a tremendous learning experience for us at Flare and for our partners. We witnessed first hand the benefits of enhanced coordination among healthcare players and this is an objective we will keep working toward.
If you want to help us improve emergency care and response, share with us anything that you witnessed or experienced during the elections and that you think we should address. And, finally, we want to send out an enormous thank you to all of our partners for their constant and tireless efforts to help patients and save lives. #strongertogether #unsungheroes #invisibleheroes #heroesofkenya