Thursday, March 16, 2017

Naga City fire exec mulls closer coordination with volunteers, villagers

NAGA CITY, March 16 (PNA)-- A top official of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in this city urged closer coordination with firefighting volunteers and village officials to improve fire control and safety measures.

Chief Insp. Alberto de Baguio, Naga fire marshall emphasized during a round table discussion organized by the city’s business executives and Philippine Information Agency (PIA) as part of Fire Prevention Month.

“We are not prohibiting them (fire volunteer groups) from conducting a fire operation. But upon arrival of the BFP, their team leader must coordinate with us because they will be under our supervision,” he said.

De Baguio emphasized this so that various initiatives in fire fighting will be successful.

He said there can be instances when a fire volunteer group arrives earlier than BFP personnel, citing the case of the so-called Naga White group of volunteers who was the first to be in the scene of one fire incident.

De Baguio said BFP is mandated by law to conduct and supervise firefighting operations.

“There must be a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between BFP and fire volunteer groups regarding firefighting operations,” he said.

De Baguio said as a protocol other fire-fighting units must coordinate with BFP in all operations.

He acknowledged his “lapses” regarding the misunderstanding with fire volunteer groups in Naga as he has assumed that the protocol and coordination with BFP had already been instituted.

De Baguio said he is the 16th fire marshall of Naga City and he assumes the MOA with the fire volunteer groups had been in place but he was proven wrong.

“After two years and three months in my position, I have observed wrong processes in firefighting operations,” he said.

De Baguio said he is correcting the wrong processes while assuring continuous improvement in BFP-Naga’s performance.

He cited a 60 percent decrease in fire incidents in 2015 compared to 2014 and 80 percent lesser incidents in 2016 compared to 2015.

De Baguio said he is correcting some processes especially with regards to the commitment of village officials and business owners on observing proper fire safety measures.

He rues that when evaluations are conducted after a fire incident “what usually happens is that only the top management knows the listed violations.”

He said these wrong processes had been corrected through information dissemination by way of seminars and fire drills in which the violations were being listed for strict compliance.

De Baguio cited that a business establishment should designate an incident commander who will act as the “force multiplier” while waiting for arrival of BFP personnel.

“Aside from having an incident commander, the business establishment must assign a team leader and safety officer,” he said.

De Baguio said at the barangay level, the “tanod” (village watchman) must secure the properties while the barangay officials should prevent people from getting near the fire scene as the police undertake crowd control.

He said except for the BFP personnel, nobody is allowed inside the fire scene to ensure evidence is preserved while looting and “water damage” are prevented.

De Baguio related an instance in Barangay Abella, in this city, where BFP officials failed because one of the tanod grabbed the firehose from a BFP personnel, “an action which is prohibited.”

SFO4 Benhur Caronan, in the same Kapihan forum, explained that during a fire incident the owner of the place must shout for help to attract attention.

He said the fire victims must immediately leave the fire scene and stay on safe ground.

“Never go back to the establishment or house when the fire is already raging,” he said.

Caronan said once attention has been given to the fire neighbors or anybody could already be calling BFP.

He asked for understanding should BFP personnel be unable to come immediately since they still have to evaluate the situation and location of the fire so they could bring the appropriate equipment and carry out the apt firefighting technique.

Caronan said once the BFP receives a call, several questions will be asked from the caller such as his name, telephone number and location as a way of avoiding waste of resources when prank callers are entertained.

Fire prevention month which is focused on the theme: “Buhay at ari-arian pahalagahan ibayong pag-iingat sa sunog ay sa sariling bahay simulan” encourages everyone to start fire prevention safety measures inside one’s home.

The regional kick-off for the month-long activities on raising fire safety awareness among the Bicolanos was held at the Bicol University grounds on March 7 in Legazpi City with a grand rally of the various firefighting units in Albay and neighboring provinces that converged at the university grounds after a fun walk that started at Daraga, Albay.

Chief Supt. Igmedio Bondoc Jr., BFP-Bicol fire chief, had said the agency wants to strengthen its “Ugnayan sa Barangay” program to make people more fire safety conscious in the grassroots level.

He said BFP could be asked to conduct seminars in coordination with village officials, especially in the hinterland, where bush fires or grassfires at the slopes of the active Mayon Volcano could be instigated by the simple throwing of a cigarette butt by a villager ignorant of fire safety rules.

Bondoc said there are 158 firetrucks in the Bicol region and 1,250 BFP personnel ready to respond for any call for help. (PNA) FPV/GVR/JEJR/CBD