KATHMANDU, Aug 15: After the country´s oldest fire station Juddha Fire Brigade (JFB) received five additional fire trucks from different countries, the authority has moved a step forward to bridge a communication gap with a community.
The JFB´s survey on public awareness regarding the fire response mechanism in the Capital found 80 percent of the respondents were unaware of 101, a toll free number to call fire truck at the time of fire related disaster.
The survey sampled among 150 people in New Baneshor, Anamnagar, Marutole and the students of Padmodaya Higher Secondary School found 120 respondents were unaware about the importance to call on the toll free number whenever fire brokeout in their neighborhood.
“I know we have a fire station in town but I have no idea about their toll free number, I would rather call the police in case I see fire in my locality,” responded Lokendra Chhantyal, 17, a resident of Marutole. His locality lies right next to JFB.
Leela Raj Gachha Magar, chief of the JFB said that most of the people also did not know what services fire brigade provides the community. “We prepared 12 questionnaires to guage their knowledge about us and their expectations,” said Magar.
A study by the National Disaster Risk Reduction Centre (NDRC), Nepal revealed that fire related disaster killed 12 people in Kathmandu Valley last year. Similarly, around 1,500 fire-related incidents occur in the country every year that claim an average of 43 lives and destroy property worth at least Rs 350 million, said the NDRC study.
According to JFB chief Magar, an arrival of new fire trucks and necessary equipments have boosted their confidence to communicate with the society. During their study, a group of six firemen and two experts from Northumbria University, UK went to each neighborhood along with a fire truck to demonstrate how they work.
The JFB will be organizing next community based interactive programs once they prepare a manual to work on their own weaknesses, said Kedar Bahadur Adhikari, executive chief, Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC).
Admitting to the authority´s weaknesses to respond at the time of disaster; Adhikari said, “Deep rooted corruption in the local body has led to the sidelining of the fire station and the fire fighters.”
Currently, the KMC allocates Rs 1 million to the JFB which is just enough to cover the basic salaries of the fire fighters and the maintenance of the station and the vehicles are lagging.