By Nancy Nais
KUCHING, Aug 21: Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) is hoping to get their share of 15,000 new fireproof suits as soon as possible.
“It is our hope that we in Sarawak will get the new fire suits as soon as possible due to the geographical situation. We have to distribute to 32 fire stations which are widely spread all over this huge state. Based on our previous experience, Sarawak has always been the last state to receive their assets,” said state Bomba director Khirudin Drahman.
He added that to wait for the new suits which will be distributed between now until end of 2020 is too long.
The fireproof suit is part of firefighters’ Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) designed to provide protection against fire.
Other PPE worn by firefighters include a self-contained breathing apparatus, helmet and safety boots.
DayakDaily spoke to several firefighters in Kuching, who shared their disappointment and hope over the situation.
One of them last received a new fireproof suit in 2012 and that was it.
After seven years, he said it is very worn out but he doesn’t have a choice because he needs to use it whenever duty calls.
“By right, our PPE must be complete and usable. Otherwise, there is no guarantee on our own safety. Of course, we can still operate and fight fires with worn out fire suits but we are exposed to danger. Therefore, it should be in good condition at all times because of our core duties,” he said, adding that it is best to replace the suit at least once every three or four years.
Others added that their fireproof suit’s reflector must be in good condition to reduce exposure to hazards.
“When we work in the dark, our colleagues or other people cannot see us. We may be mistaken as something else, so the reflector is very important. We are responsible to rescue lives and buildings. Our job risk is high but our PPE is in bad condition,” they said.
On Aug 17, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (KPKT) Secretary-General Datuk Seri Mohammad Mentek said that 6,000 fire proof suits will be distributed in stages to all fire stations throughout the country.
“The suit will replace the old ones and it will be distributed within two months. This is to ensure that our firefighters are always prepared with safe and appropriate attire for rescue activities,” Mohammad said at the 17th Fire Fighters Run in Cyberjaya.
He added that the ministry has also put in an additional order for 9,000 pieces to be delivered by the end of next year.
Earlier this year, it was reported firefighters in the country were allegedly forced to wear worn out and unsafe fireproof suits or share suits with their off duty colleagues.
The shortage was considered critical following no new purchases since 2017.
In 2015, a tender was called for the supply of fireproof suits, but some quarters were not happy and lodged a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), claiming that the supply was found not to be according to specification and alleged fraudulence of security procedures and certificates.
Although the department had received the 6,000 new fireproof suits, they could not distribute the suits as they were seized by MACC as part of their ongoing investigation.
On May 15 this year, a test on a sample of the fireproof suits was carried out in a laboratory in Manchester by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service, which found them safe to use, as well as passing the test and complying with specifications.
Following the disclosure, on May 25, KPKT minister Zuraida Kamaruddin announced that 15,000 new fireproof suits would be distributed accordingly. — DayakDaily