The National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) on 8th Wednesday 2023, through the Directorate of Disaster Risk Reduction and Preparedness (DRR & P) continued its Social Behavioural Change Campaign on Fire Disaster Prevention by giving a public lecture at the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) Joint Force Commander’s Weekly Briefing at its headquarters, Cockerill in Freetown. It could be recalled that the Directorate has embarked on a Social behavioural change campaign on fire prevention as a strategic preparedness mechanism in modifying individuals and their collective behaviour in communities to reduce the likelihood and impact of fire incidents.
The specific target of this maiden activity initiated by the Directorate of Risk Reduction and Preparedness involved changing attitudes, values, and practices related to disaster risk, promoting community-based preparedness, and encouraging a culture of safety and resilience. The NDMA team was received by JFC Gen. Alieu, Joint Force Commander of the RSLAF who also chaired the public lecture and co-chaired by Gen. Bockarie.
In his opening statement, Gen. Bockarie said the RSLAF has suffered recently from several fire disasters at the Wilberforce and Murray Town Barracks, leaving several households homeless. He went on to appreciate the timeliness of the lecture, adding that it will help to improve their knowledge of managing fires within their barracks.
The lecture was done by NDMA’s Director of Risk Reduction and Preparedness, Thomas Lebbie. In his presentation, he gave a background of the overall mandate of the NDMA and zeroed in on the specific functions of his directorate. Director Lebbie said his directorate had done an assessment of the current status of the military’s housing, offices and warehouse facilities across the country. These include ageing military quarters with ancient electrical fittings, overpopulation of the barracks leading to the building of makeshift structures that are mostly electrified by quack technicians, and the fact that there are no internal fire disaster prevention and preparedness plans for the RSLAF.
He also drew the military’s attention to other specialized military hardware facilities which are of age and might have similar old electrical fittings. Knowing all these conditions, Director Lebbie informed the audience that the exposures and vulnerabilities within military barracks, offices and hardware facilities are quite visible and high. These equally show the high likeability of fire disasters being frequent in their facilities, as was the case a couple of weeks ago, referencing the fire incidents at Wilberforce and Murray Town Barracks. He informed the audience that the NDMA will be pleased to collaborate with the RSLAF in providing guidance for the development of an internal fire disaster prevention and preparedness plan, which will be rolled out to all military facilities nationwide.
The Public Relations Officer of the National Fire Force (NFF) represented by Fatmata Bintu Kamara said 80 per cent of the fire disasters investigated in the Western Area are a result of electrical issues ranging from the use of substandard extension cables and overloading of them, hiring of quack electricians, overloading of EDSA meters and extension cables, illegal connections etc. She said there are other factors responsible for fire disasters.
The public lecture climaxed with clear several recommendations which include: the setting up of a fire disaster mitigation and prevention committee in all barracks and military facilities, developing a framework and Standard Operating Procedure as deemed fit within the RSLAF’s mandate, conducting fire drills, surveys and inspections of their facilities (i.e. targeting quarters, offices, workshops and hardware facilities), liaise with the NDMA to share the national fire disaster prevention preparedness plan when developed and conduct six months After Action Reviews of their interventions.
Consequently, two critical action points were agreed upon and adopted by the leadership of the Joint Force Command’s weekly briefing to consult higher authorities to include fire prevention training for cadets and the Horton Academy officers and that senior officers to take these messages to their respective areas of command and implement them for the safety of their facilities etc.
In conclusion, Director Lebbie thanked the Ministry of Defence and the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces senior management for such an invitation to present on fire prevention. “Fire prevention training/engagements are the only viable interventions to avert the occurrence of fire incidents. The fire incidents in the western area surging, and it has had a negative impact on residents, we need to work collectively to greatly minimize its occurrence.” He said