Tehran Neighborhood Emergency Response Volunteers (DAWAM)


What is the role of local residents in disaster risk management? What can be done to enhance their contribution? Why should authorities support the development of a network of neighborhood disaster volunteers? These are samples of questions may be raised in the field of Disaster Management.

Worldwide experience demonstrates that no official disaster response system can cope adequately with a major seismic disaster. The participation of local people for emergency response and disaster preparedness is a very important parameter for reducing the impact of natural hazard. The experience has shown that the first groups which can help citizens in the case of disaster are the local people by themselves. But usually the local citizens are not trained enough for disasters and their effective contribution is severely limited by their lack of preparation.

With taking into account these facts and the need for effective utilization of local residents' potentials to rescue victims in disasters and also in line with achieving community-based goals, increasing public participation and making Tehran Disaster Management System more effective for providing optimal and updated response operations, TDMMO planned to implement Neighborhood Emergency Response Volunteers project (DAWAM) in Tehran.

As a strategic program, DAWAM project launched in 2005 by TDMMO and with the SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation)cooperation and assistance for transferring the experience of volunteer groups in Turkey.

At pilot level, the project was carried out in five selected neighborhoods (Mahale) in districts 4, 6, 8, 10 and 17 of Tehran Municipality in cooperation with officials in charge of Districts Disaster Management Headquarters, Shorayari (Councils at Mahaleh Level) and training departments of disaster management related organizations e.g. EMS, RCS and Fire Fighting and Safety Services Organization. Subsequent to selection of volunteers and participation of team members at training courses such as rescue and relief, first aid and fire extinguishing, in each of the selected Mahale, a Neighborhood disaster volunteer group consists of 50 to 60 persons established.

DAWAM groups established in 5 districts of Tehran are now actively involved in TDMMO different activities such as drills and other preparedness improvement measures.

Following successful implementation of pilot phase, the TDMMO received approval of Tehran City Council on April 23, 2008 for development of DAWAM program all over Tehran.

What does DAWAM stand for?

DAWAM which in Persian Language means continuity, persistence and sustainability, stands for “Däwtalaban-ě Wäkonesh-ě Ezterari Măhăleh” that means “Neighborhood Emergency Response Volunteers”.

The name is selected for Volunteer Emergency Response Teams, organized in Tehran at the neighborhood level to empower Tehran citizens and to reduce their vulnerability in natural disasters.

DAWAM Objective:

The objective of the project is strengthening the capacity of residential communities at Mahale level to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters, in particular those arising from seismic hazards, and linking this neighborhood based capacity to Districts Disaster Management Headquarters and ultimately to TDMMO. This goal can be achieved through specific activities for training, organizing and equipping the neighborhood volunteers.

Scope of Work:

The scope of program is establishment of Emergency Response Volunteer Groups at 370 Mahale of Tehran.

As it has been mentioned before, at pilot level, the project was carried out in five selected neighborhoods (Mahale) in districts 4, 6, 8, 10 and 17 of Tehran Municipality in cooperation with officials in charge of Districts Disaster Management headquarters, Shorayari (Councils at Mahaleh Level) and training departments of disaster management related organizations e.g. EMS, RCS and Fire Fighting and Safety Services Organization.

DAWAM Approach:

The DAWAM Program is designed to mobilize the potentials of Tehran Citizens. It is a carefully designed program of training and practical exercises imparts the basic knowledge, skills and confidence that volunteers need for effective disaster response. The organization which is required to coordinate activities and to maintain group preparedness over the long term is provided by a DAWAM group structure with clearly defined roles, functions and procedures. The effectiveness of volunteers is enhanced by protective clothing, appropriate tools and equipment. Neighborhood-based approaches are particularly effective because of their adaptation to the specific vulnerabilities, problems and priorities of the local community.

DAWAM Declaration:

In order to create a common understanding of the mission and vision pursued by the Project among all the stakeholders, a declaration was formulated.

The declaration called for formation, organization, education, mobilization and equipping of volunteer groups in selected neighborhoods (Mahale) of Tehran with the aim to rescue local residents, to reduce the loss of life and property damages and to enhance the preparedness capacity for immediate help and rescue within the first 72 hours after a disaster until the formal forces arrive to the site.

Decision Makers' Vision on DAWAM:

The project decision makers' and directors' vision is to put responsibility of the project executive activities e.g. volunteer formation, training, equipping and organizing local groups at 370 Mahale, on the shoulders of officials at Districts Disaster Management Headquarters in order to decentralized duties at TDMMO and to utilize capabilities of trained and organized volunteers at Mahale level for prompt response to disasters.

DAWAM project main parts:

The main parts of the DAWAM project are as follows:

  • Awareness raising, dissemination of information and documentation:

    The main activities of the Project in the field of awareness raising and dissemination of information included designing and publicizing a logo for the Project; publication of advocacy brochures and posters; designing a website; designing special clothes and armbands for the volunteers; preparation and distribution of advocacy stationary (notebooks, pens, labels and folders) with the logo of the Project; organizing exhibitions in the selected districts; street theaters in different districts.

  • Volunteers:

    Registration, Selection and organization of volunteers are of the most important parts of the Project, as reflected in its missions, visions, and the adopted declaration.

  • Training:

    Neighborhood Emergency Response Volunteers (DAWAM members) participate in the following training courses:

    • Preparedness for Response to disaster
    • First Aid Basics
    • Search and Rescue Basics
    • Fire Fighting Principals and Mitigation Measures
    • Disaster Psychology Basics
  • Organization of volunteers:

    An operational mechanism has been anticipated for organization of the neighborhood disaster volunteers into working groups. In each Mahaleh, the volunteers are organized in five groups after receiving training.The volunteers are well justified about their duties and the regulations in this regard. In each group, one volunteer is elected as the group coordinator. Every volunteer is assigned a unique identification code, which is also labeled on his/her individual equipment stored in the Container. The groups hold monthly practice sessions in which they exercise application of the equipment. Periodic Drills are organized for the groups with the coordination of the District Disaster Management headquarters.

  • Equipment for neighbourhood disaster volunteers:

    Stockpiling equipment in the closest locations to residential sites prone to disaster risks is a great advantage of the approach introduced by the Project.

    This element of the Project included the supply of Containers stored with 6 categories of equipment briefly described below:

    • Individual equipment
    • Group equipment
    • Container-based equipment
    • First Aid bags
    • Medical equipment
    • Toolkits
Selection Criteria for DAWAM Volunteers:
  • Age between 18-55;
  • Physical and mental health, free from cardio-vascular diseases and allergy,
  • suitable height and weight;
  • At least two years residence in the selected Mahale of district;
  • Intention to live in the selected Mahale in the future;
  • No criminal records;
  • Minimum secondary school graduate;
  • No staff of formal institutions involved at the times of disaster,(such as Fire Department; the Armies; hospitals, etc)
Criteria for selection of Mahale in DAWAM:

Selection of the pilot districts and the Mahalehs was on the basis of the following criteria approved by the Steering Committee of the Project:

  • Vulnerability to disasters, in particular, as a result of being located on active faults of Tehran;
  • Population density;
  • building density;
  • socio-economic conditions;
  • open and green spaces area and dispersion;
  • Width of passages;
  • important administrative buildings;
  • critical facilities and utilities;