HYDERABAD: Besides lack of enough fire stations and the traffic congestion, have you ever wondered why the fire tenders, in most cases, reach the location late? Chances are that the officials meant to lead a fire brigade do not want to claim responsibility for your distress.
A lot of Station Fire Officers (SFOs), the officials who carry out the fire rescuing and controlling operation, refuse to attend distress calls terming them to be out of their jurisdiction as accorded by the State Fire Services department, observe senior officers. And, with the average response time for distress calls at 158 minutes in urban areas — according to the recent CAG report, the claim seems to gain strength.
“There are several instances wherein SFOs say that a distress call from a particular area does not fall under their purview. And, by the time a fire tender it turned out the fire breakout already intensifies leading to more damage,” observed S Suresh Reddy, Assistant District Fire Officer. While the tug-of-war between two SFO continues to happen on who should attend a distress call, the need for a jurisdiction map in the lines of a law and order gains relevance.
“The jurisdiction map not only serves as a quick guide to the personnel but also helps in ear-marking the limits of the SFO’s so that there are more responsibility and accountability,” Reddy added. Similarly, the firefighters also observe that the maps would aid in being better prepared, especially, in the case of industrial clusters.
“Having a map which classifies an area based on high rise buildings or concentration of industrial clusters would aid us to fight fire better,” said P Govind, president, Telangana Fire Services Welfare Association. If the department has to scale up to the standards of the police or excise department, they need to have a tab and a dedicated application to monitor tracking of fire tenders, he added.
Surprisingly, though the department is short by 96 per cent of fire stations, several stations continue to house multiple fire tenders and mist bullets reducing the efficiency of call time in times of emergency. With increased fire calls during the summer, deputing vehicles outside the fire station will decrease the response time, a city resident.
Fire dept misses out on revenue
Though the CAG report painted a grim picture of the Fire Services Department, those working inside observe that the State government takes the least interest in developing the infrastructure as the department does not generate enough revenue.
“Of the several departments, ours contribute least to the revenue of the state because of which there has been little no progress,” said a leading fireman who did not want to be named. While his view can be debated considering that the department makes money through the issuance of No Objection Certificate (NOC) for every building which exceeds 15 meters in height, its renewal period extended to five years has caused the department to miss out on revenue observe department insiders. “Earlier when the renewal period was five years, there were periodic checks done to the buildings claiming NOC and at the same time, the department also generated revenue.
But after the renewal period extended to five years, there are lapses that are arising,” informed top sources to Express. This would lead to the buildings to flout rules in maintaining the health of fire safety equipment. “While attending a fire call in high rise buildings, we straight away do not use our equipment but rely on the equipment that is already available in the building. And, in many cases the equipment does not work,” said P Govind, President of Telangana Fire Services Welfare Association. Periodic checks will help an overseeing authority to check the status of such equipment, he added.