Sunday, April 01, 2012

Fire service dept ill-prepared in Karnataka: Comptroller and Auditor General of India. Crash of Boeing 737, Air India Express, Flight IX-811/812, VT-AXV on May 22, 2010.

Bangalore: Despite the Mangalore air crash and the fire mishap at Carlton Towers here, the Department of Karnataka State Fire and Emergency Services does not have separate standard operating procedures (SOPs) to deal with different emergencies, a CAG report has revealed.

Except for Bangalore and Hubli, other cities in the state did not have special equipment to manage fire-accidents in high-rise buildings, according to the report for the year ending March 31, 2011, tabled in the just-concluded legislature session.

An Air India Express carrier from Dubai crashed at Mangalore on May 22, 2010 killing 158 people, including the crew members. In one of the major fire accidents in high-rise buildings, nine people lost their lives and 57 others were injured at Carlton Towers here on February 23, 2010.

"Even one year after the crash, the Department had neither finalized a standing operating procedure for air crash accidents nor conceived specialized training for search and rescue operations in such situations", it said.

As the Department was identified during 2004 as the 'first responder' for all emergencies, it needed to function as a multi-hazard response unit, but it was seen that it had been following only a common SOP for all kinds of emergencies.

"As the nature of response required was different for different emergencies, like fires in high-rise buildings, floods, earthquakes, landslides, air crash, etc., separate SOPs were to be designed to ensure a quick and appropriate response to the type of emergency," the CAG said.

"This was, however, not done, handicapping the Department in providing the appropriate response during emergencies".

Vacancies in the post of operating staff aggregated 2,521 (40 per cent) as of December 2011 and the Department, responsible for fire prevention, fire safety, fire fighting, suppression besides disaster preparedness and management, had not initiated the recruitment process despite government's approval in December 2009, due to non-finalization of cadre and recruitment rules.

The report said even the basic vehicles/equipment such as jeeps, utility vehicles, water tenders and bouzers, and portable pumps had not been procured to the extent possible.

Hazmat vans required for dealing with industrial disasters had also not been procured.

Search and rescue units had not been established at the metropolitan, district and taluk levels as planned. The value of the property lost and saved as assessed by the Department was not reliable as this was not professionally done.

According to the report, while obsolete wireless sets had not been replaced, repeater facilities had not been established in 18 of the total 30 districts. Ten out of 11 posts sanctioned for the communication wing remained vacant, it was pointed out.

The CAG has recommended that the department should periodically assess its performance so as to be in a position to determine training, equipment and personnel needs, modify and improve the programs and make informed strategic decisions about the level and type of service it should provide.


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