Unsung Heroes Day: International Firefighters Day

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Deeba Shahnaz Akhter

Every year, 4th May is observed as International Firefighters day to pay tribute and show solidarity to fire rescuers, who serve for protection and safety of the communities.

The date chosen for International firefighters’ day was linked to the feast day of ST Florian, who was the first known commander of one firefighting squad in Roman Empire.

He along with his colleagues lost their lives in one of the tragic wild fire incident in Australia.

These silent defenders, true sons of soil and unsung heroes are known as Fire Rescuers. Fire rescuers are respected all over the world due to the nature of unique and risky job they perform.

Firefighting profession is highly technical, structured and supplied with various artifacts, which helps to decide actions in unpredictable and complex situation. It involves special skills to fight with flames, rescue the trapped victims and save properties.

Formal trainings related firefighting helps to minimize risk by practicing safety procedures and get command over them.

History reveals that developed countries had also faced major fire incidents. One of the major fire incidents in the history of United States occurred at James Town in 1608, left large losses of lives and properties.

Great fire of London Sept 1666 ruined many buildings included 13,200 house, 87 churches and left many direct and indirect losses.

Similarly, Boston city experienced ravaging for administration to give a serious thought to firefighting and fire prevention consequently new courts and rules regarding firefighting including laws pertaining to the uses of open spaces and fire resistant building material were developed. Firefighting departments were also established.

Likewise Major terrorist attack in New York City and Washington DC witnessed the firefighters as the primary first responders responded the incident and more than 300 firefighters lost their lives while responding to attack on the world Trade Center.

West fertilizer co-explosion on 3 May, 2013 highlighted the tough and volatile work of firefighters.

In Pakistan, in the tenure of Ch Pervaiz Elahi as CM Punjab Rescue 1122 Service was started in 2004 as an ambulance service under the leadership of Dr Rizwan Naseer DG Rescue Punjab. The Service earned respect and public trust within short span of time.

Resultantly, the challenge of establishing fire service was also given and with support of then Scottish Parliamentarian and Ch Muhammad Sarwar and Hanzala Malik Rescue Officers had received international fire and rescue training, which was replicated to all fire staff at Emergency Services Academy and started Fire Rescue Service in 2007.

So far, Rescue Service has rescued over 9.2 million victims of different emergencies without discrimination with average response time of seven minutes and saved losses worth over PKR 490 Billion by improving response time and professional firefighting.

As per data of Emergency Service of last year, Fire Rescue Service is managing an average 43 fire incidents daily in Punjab and short circuits, negligence and carelessness have become leading causes of fire emergencies.

Implementation of Building Code of Pakistan – Fire Safety Provisions – 2016 has become need of the hour.

It is also pertinent to mention that immediate safety measure like Fire exits and stairs separated by fire doors, fire alarm system, external fire hydrants for firefighting, sprinkle system in multi storey buildings may be installed to prevent fires.

Moreover, the fire emergencies caused by negligence can be prevented with little vigilance and care while using gas heaters, kitchen stoves, candles and domestic accessories. Always Use standardized electrical and Gas appliances, Shut off all appliances before sleeping and going out from the building.

Furthermore, a degree program related to firefighting and fire safety needs to be started to increase the number of professionals in this field and promote safety in the country.

On this special day, I would like to pay rich tribute to 13 Shaheed fire Rescuers of Ghakkar Plaza disaster, who sacrificed their lives during fire and rescue operation and changed the firefighting history in the country.

These unsung heroes were from Pakistan Ordinance Factory Wah, Rescue 1122, City Fire Brigade and Civil Aviation Authority.

They proved that firefighters do not only sprinkle water on the flames from outside rather they are passionate and even can sacrifice their lives for protecting others. Their countless efforts to transform this profession shall always be remembered.

May Allah rest their souls in Heaven, who sacrificed their lives to save others and salute to the real heroes of the nations from all over the world for their countless efforts for developing safer communities in their respective countries.

The writer is Liaison Officer, Pakistan Rescue Team,(UN-INSARAG Classified) Head, Community Safety / Chief Public Information Officer, Rescue Information Wing, Headquarters Punjab Emergency Service, Lahore – Pakistan
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