Mr Kwesi Ahwoi, Minister of the Interior, has called for intensive stakeholder collaboration to reduce the number of unexpected fire outbreaks and disasters, particularly at market places and institutions.
According to him the cost that is incurred in terms of losses of lives and property during such fire outbreaks and disasters, far outweighs the cost of reactive approaches to fire fighting, and that the need to take preventive measures is crucial for the maximum security of the country.
“We are very much aware of the devastating disasters which our dear country has faced within the recent past. Among others, one can readily recollect the fires in Kantamanto, Agbobloshie and the Kumasi Central markets, which occurred early last year as well as the very recent ones at the Old Parliament House, Makola-Tudu, and last Tuesday’s outbreak in the Timber market all in Accra, not forgetting recorded industrial and household fires,” he said.
He cited experiences such as the collapse of high-rise buildings in Achimota and Nii Boi Town apart from frequent calls of vehicular accidents across the country as unacceptable.
He said statistics from the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) indicates that 4,577 fire outbreaks were recorded in 2012 with a resultant cost in damage estimated at GH₵10.3 million as compared to 5,489 in 2013, which attracted an estimated cost of GH₵ 25.08 million.
Mr Ahwoi, who was addressing the Conference of Directors and Regional Commanders’ of GNFS, on Thursday challenged Management to find effective ways of collaborating with other security services.
The two-day conference which was on the theme: “Managing the Paradigm Shift to Optimise the Human and Material Resources towards Enhanced Safety and Safety and Disaster Management”, would offer Management an opportunity to assess the performance of the Service over the past year and to brainstorm on sustainable strategies and ideas for efficient and effective operations.
The expected outcome of the conference would place the Management of the Service in a better position to transform the GNFS into a more efficient, result-oriented state agency, charged with the responsibility of managing all fires in the country, and well prepared to meet the potential challenges of an emerging petro-chemical industry in Ghana.
Mr Ahwoi said the changing landscape in fighting fires and managing disasters in recent times, requires rapid responses which could be achieved through the stepping-up of in-service training to sharpen the skills of the personnel.
He urged the Service to pride itself as a security service and behave as such with a high level of discipline since every positive achievement in an organisation depends on the professional outlook and conduct of its personnel.
“Furthermore we need to broaden our fire preventive activities in the areas of education and sensitisation to bring the …public to appreciate the need to prevent and manage fire and disasters in our communities,” he said.
The Sector Minister acknowledged the fact that the scope of managing disasters have suddenly widened and the Service is accordingly challenged to be appropriately and adequately equipped.
He said government’s commitment to retool the Service to meet modern standards was evident in the new acquisitions, and efforts are being made to clear additional 80 new fire tenders ordered from India from the harbour, to boost their fleet.
He said plans are advanced to establish an ultra-modern Fire Service Staff College at Ayikuma in the Greater Accra Region, which would ultimately become a Regional Centre of Excellence within the Sub-Region.
Brigadier-General John Bosco Guyiri, Acting Chief Fire Officer, said the GNFS has recorded a number of achievements over the years, but recent trends resulting from technological advancement regarding the use of sophisticated electrical gadgets and the construction of high-rise buildings, calls for further improvement in its operations.
This he said, calls for a paradigm shift from fire fighting to fire safety management regimes, with adequate logistical support to enforce fire safety laws, particularly with vehicles.
However, constraints such as inadequate budget allocation, fire fighting trucks and equipment, fire stations, lack of international training and exposure as well as insufficient conditions of service to attract professionals such as lawyers, engineers and doctors are undermining the objective.