• Thursday, Feb 25, 2021
  • Last Update : 03:42 pm

OP-ED: A burning issue

  • Published at 02:08 am January 12th, 2021
Fire fighters in front of Jaman Tower
Mahmud Hossain Opu

Firefighting protocols must be prioritized across the board

A devastating fire broke out at Konka Electronics Factory in Sonargaon, Narayanganj on January 3. The fire initiated from the third floor and engulfed the entire building. Several units of Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD) worked for long hours to tame the fire. 

An owner of an industrial park nearby witnessed it from his conference room on the ninth floor about half a kilometre away on the other side of the road and quickly deployed a few of his fire engines and firemen to help tackle this unfortunate fire incident. 

This gave a unique opportunity to his firefighters to experience live firefighting of such magnitude. They had basic skills and rudimentary equipment in terms of their fire engine and were equipped to handle small fire incidents in their own factory once in a while and of course carry out mock firefighting practice say, once in a month. At Konka, they managed to keep their wits about and worked hard to make their efforts as effective as possible. 

It is expected that the appropriate authority will carry out an investigation and come up with actual causes, assess the damage, and suggest measures to curb such occurrences in future. The origin of the fire could have been from some electric short circuit and the highly inflammable chemicals around might have played a major role in spreading it. 

Unfortunately for the Konka factory, there was only one entry which was under construction and hence fire engines could not get close to the building. Another unfortunate issue was the fire hydrants. 

Though there were some fire hydrants in the compound, the pump needed to lift up water could not function since electricity was shut down because of fire. The pump did not have any alternative source of power such as a diesel run generator. 

Precaution, protection against fire, and fire fighting arrangements are very essential elements for any industrial establishment. Though for large incidents of fire, we rely upon government fire stations belonging to FSCD, basic fire detection and fire fighting forms an integral part of our industries. 

This needs deliberate planning ingrained with the very layout of an industrial outfit. Assessment of fire hazards, dispensation of technical knowhow for detection and prevention, and firefighting arrangements entail a big industry all by itself. 

From very rudimentary assets in terms of firefighting gear to acquiring trained manpower to handling fire incidents, with the advent of technology these days, there is no end to sophistication in this field.

Lack of seriousness, coupled with a sense of complacency is common, where people think that a fire is a very remote possibility. Hence the issue is not treated with due fervour. 

There are establishments which have installed the required gadgets in terms of smoke detectors, sprinklers, fire engines, panel boards, fire control room, and other equipment. But routine periodic checking is often neglected.

Firefighting practices are not carried out regularly and religiously. Even if they are done in some cases with the seriousness they warrant, they are always found to be lacking in terms of participation of the bulk of the manpower. 

People busy in production are not usually spared for such essential and life saving drills. 

Workers are not trained and organized on how to escape and safeguard their life and property. This remains a major hurdle for them, to be able to act in an effective and organized manner in the event of an actual fire breaking out. 

Hence, instead of being able to make a safe and organized exit, they end up engulfed in a totally chaotic situation, leading to death and damage beyond measure. 

Due to the fire fighting gadgets being costly in terms of procurement, installment, and maintenance, a compromise is usually made in terms of both quantity and quality. Industrial space being very costly, usually not enough room is left for uninterrupted movement of fire engines and firefighters in between buildings. 

The best way to remain ready and retain effective capacity to fight fires would be to follow stringent in-house auditing of the whole system, including manpower, gadgets, and procedure. This is normally not done and unfortunately is only detected when we are faced with a real emergency.

Brig Gen Qazi Abidus Samad is a freelance contributor. He can be reached on email: [email protected]

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