Mumbai (Ranvir Bajpai):- With the city growing vertically, the number of fire incidents is on the rise. While the fire brigade department is gearing up to tackle fire and prevent them, people’s participation in ensuring fire safety has become crucial. Ahead of Mumbai Fire Brigade’s ‘Fire Safe Mumbai: chief fire officer Prabhat Rahangdale speaks to TWV Editor in chief Ranvir Bajpai, on how the fire brigade, citizens and industry experts can jointly make the city safer.
Q: When will Mumbai become fire safe in the real sense?
As , things don’t change overnight. In Mumbai, development means re-development so the cityscape is changing constantly. Initiatives like this conclave are an effort in that direction. We have learnt from incidents like the Lotus building fire and Kalbadevi’s Gokul Nivas fire. Things will improve gradually through a joint effort. I think we are on the right track.
Q: What about citizens’ participation and awareness?
We have started a volunteer programme for involving citizens in fire fighting and prevention. We have got good response so far. See, fire fighting has to be a joint effort. People have to take fire prevention seriously. Unless they do that, fire incidents will keep occurring. We have developed a software for regulating the fire compliance certificates of buildings. Once it is ready, we will be able to monitor fire compliance of buildings effectively. We had also appealed to people to get their buildings fire complied as per norms.
Q: Experts say that technology is not being used effectively to fight fires in Mumbai. How would you respond to that?
We are using the best possible technology available at the moment. We have already fast tracked purchase of modern ladders and snorkels. Some of them have been commissioned already. In fact, we are exploring the possibility of using drones and robots to help us fight fires. We want to use drones to help us see the fire and for public address. All this is in process.
Q: Please tell us about where you were born and brought up?
I was born in Nagpur and was brought up in Ulhasnagar near Mumbai. I did my schooling and college education from Ulhasnagar. I did graduation in B.Sc. Chemical. Then I joined fire brigade and next I gave exam of Grade I of UK for Fire Engineers. Then PEER (Program on Enhancement of Emergency Response) the program which was funded by USA. Five countries were involved in this, India, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. There I was Medical First Responder, Collapse Structure Search and Rescue, Trainer for Trainer Program and Coordinator Program. I was the only Indian who has done it. Then I got selected for UN’s Disaster Assessment and Coordination Expert. I have also worked in US’s peace mission.
Q: When you joined the fire brigade department?
I joined the fire brigade department on 16th Feb, 1989 when I was just 24 year old and I am in the service for more than 27 years now.
Q: How you guide the youngsters to join Fire Brigade?
The infrastructure we have is not enough; we are trying to improve it. We have done the volunteer program. In which we taught them how to help fire brigade in case of emergency. In one year we have created team of 5000 volunteers in Mumbai. We did advertisements for that and as a result when we were conducting interviews for 734 vacancies, more than 15,000 applicationswere there for job interview. We are spreading social-awareness in society about fire situation. Actor Randeep Hooda is our Brand Ambassador. We have completed first phase of volunteer program and in next segment we are planning to placer our designed vehicles at Eastern, Western and City area there we will give training program for our volunteer. These people then guide to societies about fire situation. We are getting good response from people. Now we are planning to take this volunteer program to whole Maharashtra and we have target of creating 60,000 volunteers.
Q: What are your expectations from CM?
Hon. CM Devendra Fadanvisji is supporting us in every activity. In today’s date we need 56 fire stations in Mumbai, but it is not possible immediately. So we are building 20 mini fire stations which will be launched in March –April 2017. Again we have found another option in which we have made segments of manpower. We are giving intense training to them. So for that we are building modern breathing apparatus. We are improving our communication. We are also bringing Command and Control System which is world’s best, which has integration of GPs and GPRS. Now we are trying to improve our infrastructure by adding more fire brigade stations with modern technologies in next 2-3 years.
Q: What actions do you take when there is any fire accident?
We have SOP (Signing Operating Procedure) here. We have levels in which Level one consist of 2 Fire brigade vehicle. Level2 Consist of 8 Vehicles. Level 3 Consist of 12 Vehicles. And in Level 4 we took more resource. I took actions after we think its Level 4 operation. Till Level 3 other deputy officers takes the charge. But it can be also dependent on circumstances.
In Kalabadevi Fire accidents along with Chief Fire Officer, Sunil Nesrikar three other fire officers – Sudhir Amin, M N Desai and S W Rane faced the death.Please tell us about it?
In civil insurgencies we have a lot of pressure; we have to stay calm in that hot situation. Also there are much interference like media and local people so it’s a big pressure because we are working in front of whole nation. That day these officers went there for reassessment. Situation was worst and we can’t calculate what could be happen next. After that incident we have improved our safety parameters.
The number of fire incidents has increased recently. The number of causalities too has increased where along with citizens, firemen also got injured. What is the reason?
There are several factors responsible for this. The city is growing in all directions and we have to catch up with that pace. Apathy on the citizens’ part, lack of awareness about fire prevention and safety are some of the reasons. Negligence on part of officials and structural faults in buildings are also there. All this cannot be changed overnight, but we are taking a systematic approach. Things are changing and you will see the results in the days to come.
Q: So we have to know that if the city is now in safe hands of Chief like you?
Trying to save lives of people along with their properties is our job. We always make sure that everything will be safe and sound. As city is progressing in its structure we have to adapt our self and our equipment according to it. Now we are starting a international level modern training center which will have all latest technology and module on which training can be provided. We have done our rescue missions in Bihar Flood, Andmaan-Nikobar Iceland. After 26th July 2005 flood situation in Mumbai we have built a flood and beach rescue team. As the challenges are increasing we are adapting our self in it. Mumbai Fire Brigade is one of the best fire brigade in country and South Pacific Asian Region and I am proud that I am chief fire officer of that.
Q: How many honors did you get in fire department?
I got a President Medal for my work. Apart from that I also honored with 8 medals from Municipal Corporation. I am very satisfied about my career.