Adopt a fire hydrant to help BOMBA and your community

Firemen demonstrating the use of a fire hydrant. Photo courtesy of Jabatan Bomba dan Penyelamat Malaysia Negeri Sarawak.

by Datu Khiruddin Drahman

When there is a fire to a building, a fire hydrant plays a very important role in fire-fighting. Existing regulations in the country make it an offence to conceal or misuse a fire hydrant.

Members of the public must know that a fire hydrant is an installation on a permanently charged water main of appropriate size and fitted with a connection suitable for use by the fire services department. It may also include installation of pipes, water tanks and pumps to provide a ready means by which jets of water can be delivered for the purpose of fire- fighting.

Under the Sarawak Building Ordinance, every building shall be served by at least a fire hydrant located not more than 90 metres from the nearest point of fire brigade access. A large building installation must be installed with a wet or dry rising system plus pressuriséd hydrant system that can be used at any time.

All these are the guiding principles and references for Bomba Sarawak officers to make sure all water reticulation systems for fire fighting are adequate.

For example, fire tenders like fire engines or fire trucks, tankers and fire fighting machines must carry enough water supply to fight the fire within 10 to 15 minutes. As such, they need constant water supply to deliver the total knock-out to fires.

But the sad part is that fire brigades often face unforeseen problems whenever there is a fire such as unseen obstacles in faulty or obscured fire hydrants. This stems from the relatively lack of knowledge or awareness among residents in an area or occupants of a building.

The relative lack of civic consciousness in this respect is a huge dampener for the fire brigade to do its work well. Sometimes failure on the part of the fire brigade to deliver the “knock-out punch” to a fire is often hampered by a failed water supply situation!

For this reason, Bomba Sarawak wants to actively engage with communities and transform them to be champions in fire safety as stated clearly in the Fire and Rescue Department’s Dasar Kebombaan dan Penyelamatan Negara 2021-2030.

This entails creating safer environments, instilling a higher safety culture among the communities, enhancing and creating greater inclusivity for strategic partnerships and increasing the Total Fire Safety culture.

Residents and occupants can become care-takers or “custodians” of the fire-fighting apparatus in their communities and make a big difference in times of crisis. The intended transformation on the ground will remain aspirational or a dream until  communities step in readily to be partners in the proposed Total Fire Safety approach premised under the “Bapa Angkat Pili Bomba” initiative.

To date, there are 35,096 fire hydrants in Sarawak that need “tender loving care” from the residents and occupants.

Of this number, 33,158 are public hydrants while 1,938 are privately owned. Fire hydrants painted in Bomba Red are public hydrants while those in yellow are private hydrants.

Under our department’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), hydrants must be checked, tested, cleaned and greased once a year besides reporting their locations to the local water authority. So far this year, almost 92 per cent are operational  while eight per cent need funds for further repairs.

Under the “Bapa Angkat Pili Bomba” programme to ensure that fire hydrants are safe from vandals or accidental damage, the public is encouraged to adopt these hydrants. Currently only 33.6 per cent or 11,121 have been adopted leaving another 66.4 per cent or 22,037 still available.

This proactive approach can certainly help prevent potential sad stories of “failed fire rescue”. You make what you are…your safety is your choice…make it happen. Just give me a call.

Datu Khiruddin Drahman is the Director of Jabatan Bomba dan Penyelamat, Sarawak. Keeping people and buildings safe from fire is his business and keeping people informed of ways how to keep themselves safe is a full time vocation for him.