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November 9, 2018

Karachi’s firefighting system weakest in country, admits Sindh govt


November 9, 2018

The Sindh government is fully aware that the firefighting system of Karachi has been the weakest in the entire country, despite it being the most populous city, and the authorities concerned have now started taking immediate steps to rectify the situation.

Sindh Minister for Environment & Climate Change Taimur Talpur made these remarks on Thursday as he spoke as chief guest at the 8th Fire Safety & Security Convention-2018 organised by National Forum for Environment & Health (NFEH) in collaboration with the Fire Protection Association of Pakistan (FPAP).

Speakers at the convention lamented that resources and equipment of the Karachi fire brigade had lately depleted to such an alarming extent that it could cover merely 10 per cent of the city. They said Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s Fire Department should be upgraded on a war-footing basis to make it fully capable of tackling more than one full-scale fire emergencies at a time.

Environment & Climate Change Minister Taimur Talpur assured the audience that the Sindh government had the complete realisation of the situation that much still had to be done to overcome serious deficiencies in the city’s fire-fighting system.

Talpur said the Sindh government was aware of massive loss of human lives, damage to public and private properties due to recurring fire incidents as such tragedies did occur due to the weak fire-fighting system.

He said the relevant provincial authorities were fully aware of the fact that the Sindh government was ultimately responsible for ensuring fire protection in the province. The chief minister has duly given the task to the local government minister to beef up fire-fighting systems of municipal agencies across Sindh, Talpur said.

He added that the provincial government had started providing necessary equipment to fire brigades of municipal agencies to upgrade them. The process is ongoing but is taking considerable time as the chief of the Pakistan Peoples Party had asked the Sindh government to ensure complete transparency in the procurement process.

Also speaking on the occasion, FPAP President Imran Taj said the field of fire protection had evolved and lately became a full-fledged professional discipline. Resultantly, a number of job opportunities had been created in the corporate and industrial sectors in Health, Environment, and Safety (HSE).

He said that study courses were being conducted both in the regional countries and globally to enhance the professional capabilities of the officials related to the field of HSE.

According to Taj, industries and businesses in Pakistan had been lately compelled to establish their in-house HSE departments as without such an initiative they could not do trade and business with countries of the developed world.

Tariq Moen, FPAP secretary, said that people and businesses in Pakistan should realise that the fire brigade was the last line of defence whenever someone had to deal with any fire emergency. Otherwise commercial, residential, and industrial buildings had to have their own fire safety measures on a compulsory basis to timely tackle any fire incident at their premises.

He said that besides the availability of fire extinguishers and fire alarm systems in both commercial and residential buildings, especially high-rises, their occupants should also know the drill to evacuate their workplace or homes in an emergency in case of any fire incident.

Moeen said the FPAP had lately surveyed eight multi-storied commercial buildings on II Chundrigar Road and emergency exits were found in only two buildings. The situation was much better on Sharea Faisal where construction of buildings is relatively newer and up to 40 per cent high-rises there had emergency exits.

Fawad Barry, CEO of Haseen Habib Trading which provide fire safety consultancy in the city, lamented that in 1990s, there were around 70 fire engines available to the Karachi Fire Brigade. Now their number has reduced to just over a dozen.

Millions of rupees have been spent in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to develop and upgrade Rescue 1122 service there, but no such effort has been made in Karachi or elsewhere in Sindh, he said.

Barry urged that Fire Safety Provisions-2016 as part of the Building Code of Pakistan should be implemented in the entire country to make it legally binding upon constructors of new buildings to include all necessary fire safety measures to protect lives.

According to him, Pakistan on an average had to suffer over 16,000 deaths, injuries to between 175,000 to 200,000 people, and property damage to the tune of Rs4 billion every year alone on the account of fire emergencies, and due safety measures must be taken to prevent such tragedies.

In a city like Karachi, a composite emergency helpline service should be initiated that could immediately dispatch police help, rescue personnel, or fire brigade to attend any sort of emergency in any part of the city, he said.

Junaid Esmail Makda, president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry, stressed on the need for more efforts by the Sindh government and KMC for ensuring fire protection for industries and businesses.

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