Adding fuel to fire, Karachi’s fire dept devoid of effective communication system

Fire officials in Karachi rely on their mobile phones to communicate during emergencies

Our Correspondent April 11, 2019
A file photo of Karachi's fire brigade extinguishing a fire. PHOTO: EXPRESS

KARACHI: At a time when technology has been incorporated in nearly every aspect of our lives, Karachi, one of the largest cities of the world, relies on a fire department which is devoid of a communication system on a par with international standards. Fire officials in Karachi rely on their mobile phones to communicate during emergencies. This is despite a tender being issued two years ago for the latest communication technology for the fire department.

As per international standards, a wireless set should be installed in every fire station. The tower for the wireless set is installed on the roof of the station along with an antenna. This enables all stations of the fire department to remain in touch. A similar set is also installed in the fire tenders so that fire fighters can remain in contact with the station when they are responding to an emergency.

The system allows the fire fighters to communicate their location as well as receive information regarding the fire they are responding to. Along with this, fire fighters are also provided with walkie talkie sets in order to be able to easily communicate with each other while on duty.  These sets are extremely important during an inferno incident for the fire fighters to be able to communicate effectively in order to contain the fire.

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As it currently stands, if a fire were to break out in a high rise building in Karachi, the communication between fire fighters working on different floors of the building would break. All officers and staff in the city's fire department communicate with each other via mobile phones which cannot be relied upon particularly during the efforts of containing the fire.

Once a fire tender leaves the station it can only be reached through phone calls to the officers on board the tender.

A wireless set and walkie talkies in accordance with international standards would benefit the firefighting process by making it more effective and efficient. The walkie talkies also record the communication log in case timely legal action is needed.

According to sources, a tender was issued in this regard in 2017 but it was not followed through. A separate contract management department was also reportedly made but it has not yet managed to issue a contract regarding the latest communication system for the fire department. An effective communication system is essential for the department and the government should take notice, they said.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2019.

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