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October 28, 2013

Rejuvenation of the Fire Department – A Step Towards Ensuring Safety of the People

Rejuvenation of the Fire Department – A Step Towards Ensuring Safety of the People
The 34 years of misrule by the communists in Bengal had left a legacy of mismanagement in every sector. Be it Health or Rural Development, Public Works or Town Planning, there were bloopers everywhere. The Trinamool Government had to face a gigantic task of fixing the existing system alongside executing developmental works. One of the primary initiatives by the new Government led by Ms. Mamata Banerjee was to systematize and upgrade the Fire and Emergency services of the State.
Fire Service in West Bengal started functioning long back in time, the first fire station in the state was Calcutta Fire Brigade. During the Second World War the necessity for augmenting the strength of Calcutta Fire Brigade, and also for providing fire safety in other city areas of undivided Bengal, was keenly felt. The Calcutta Fire Brigade was strengthened by the addition of an auxiliary fire service and a parallel organization named The Bengal Fire Service was created by govt, under which fire stations were established in densely populated and industrial towns of Bengal.
The 34 years of Left rule were marked by tragic fire disasters all over the state. From New Market to Stephen Court in Park Street, from Nandaram Market to the most recent AMRI and Baithakkhana Market, all the incidents pointed to the failure of, and the dubious security clearances provided by, the then Fire Department.
The Present Scenario
On August 2012, the West Bengal government decided to invest Rs 50 crore to modernize infrastructure and equipment for fighting fires and other disasters. The fund was utilized in setting up fire stations in the city, installing well-equipped rescue vans in districts and to train personnel.
On January 2013, the Government took up a project worth Rs 100 crore to strengthen the fire services infrastructure in the state.  It was planned to set up 25 additional fire stations statewide, besides procuring 36 small fire tenders to fight fire incidents in congested areas. It was decided that six of the 25 additional fire service stations would be set up in Kolkata alone, while the rest would come up in the districts. In the need for small fire tenders to fight fire or any disaster in lanes, by-lanes and congested areas, where big fire tenders cannot enter, small fire tenders would help the firemen to work with more confidence.
Statistics of the past year
In the year 2012, the Fire & Emergency Services Dept., armed with modern equipment fought against fire hazards with a new zeal. Let`s take a look at the figures:
>>         No. of Fire Call attended – 8825
>>         Major – 34
>>         Serious – 4
>>         Medium – 111
>>         No. of Rescued Civilian – 1547
>>         No. of persons trained including Civilians – 574
>>         Fire Awareness programme conducted – 270
The West Bengal Fire & Emergency Services has 110 Fire stations equipped with about 550 different types of Fire Engines and manned by about 6500 trained Fire Fighters with available accessories. New Fire Stations have come up at Maynaguri and Falakata and several others are in the pipeline at Gobardanga, Alampur, Harishchandrapur, Dankuni, Nonadanga, Khatra, Dalkhola, Rajarhat, Egra, Sonarpur, Pragatimaidan, Jhalda, Kakdwip, Canning, Lalbag, Memeri, Mirik among other places. The Dept. has planned to set up Fire Service Academy at Kalyani, Nadia in the near future.
Modernization of the Fire and Emergency Services is on top priority list of the government and has received an impetus with the formation of a modern control room at the state HQ, as well as at the divisional headquarters with all facilities of modern communication system, recording, analyzing, dispatching. GPS system in Fire Tenders will help them is ascertaining the location of the tragedy easily and help the HQ in tracking the fire tenders. Fire stations have been provided with mobile sets and walkie-talkies.
Items recently purchased and to be received soon :
>>         21 High and Low Pressure Water Tender
>>         15 Mid size water tender
>>         30 Emergency Tender
>>         18 operational vehicles
>>         60 motorcycles
>>         Two Hydraulic Platform one 54 meter and another 42 meter for fire fighting and rescue in High Rise buildings
>>         12 Hydraulics Rescue Tools
>>         30 circular Saw, Chain Saw, Diamond saw (Cutting and breaking tools)
>>         10 Compressor machine for BA sets
>>         Various types of search and rescue equipments
>>         3 Towing vehicles
>>         40 light weight B.A. Sets
>>         Various types of station level equipments like lock cutters, face masks, suction hoses, foam making branches, Insulated Axe, Insulated pliers, Search lights, dividing breaching, hose control clamps, short branch, different types of extinguishers etc.
>>         Portable pumps
>>         Steps are being taken for procuring  more numbers of  B.A. Sets,  Mid size water tender, water dowser,  water carrier, portable compressor sets, towing vehicles, water tender with high and low pressure, Hydraulic plat form / T.T.L and various search and rescue equipment, portable pumps etc.
Notable Achievements

>>         2000 Civil Defense Volunteers from Civil Defense Department inducted as Auxiliary Fire Operators for one year.
>>         The Department has created a Fire Prevention Wing under West Bengal Fire and Emergency Service under a Director (Fire Prevention.
>>         Policy of modernizing the Control Room of WBFES by Fleet Management System adopted. 
>>         200 Wireless Sets (Walkie-Talkie) have been procured.
>>         A Fire Safety Audit Committee has been formed taking experts from different fields to monitor whether the high rise buildings and public places are following the fire safety norms.
>>         A Committee has been constituted for revision of the existing West Bengal Fire Service Act, 1950 and rules there under. 
>>         7 new fire stations are proposed in and around the KMDA area. Besides this, a new fire station has been planned to be set up Kakdwip, Dist- South 24 Parganas.
>>         After a gap of 50 years this year a Meeting of the Standing Fire Advisory Council, Ministry of Home Affairs, the apex body meant for advising the Government on various issues relating fire service was held at Kolkata.
>>         For the first time a course on Disaster Management has been introduced in the West Bengal Fire and Emergency Service. This is at the Institute of Fire Service at Behala.
>>         The Fire Safety Audit Committee has inspected 39 hospitals and issued advisories to these Hospitals comprising of fire safety guidelines. The Committee has recommended NOC for 19 hospitals out of these 39.
>>         Decentralization of Fire Prevention Wing of issuing of NOC of Licenses has been started in all Districts with improvement in infrastructures.
Future Hopes
Besides developmental projects, Ms. Mamata Banerjee has time and again focused on projects that would ensure on the safety of the people in the state. Whenever there has been any major mishap, the Chief Minister, unlike her predecessors, have rushed to the spot, inspected the situation and has taken rapid and instant decisions so that the plight of the victims may be lessened. The recent changes in the Fire Department will negate the threats from fire hazards, but also help in averting major disasters.