Defence Minister commits to modernizing the fire service

Minister of Defence Dr. Billy Joseph wants to modernize the Papua New Guinea Fire Service to meet the evolving fire safety and emergency needs of our country.

In a statement released on Saturday 20 April, the Minister, who is also responsible for the PNG Fire Service, has outlined the following priorities and strategies necessary to create a modern fire service:

  • Modernization of all fire stations, fire engines, and standard operations to meet Queensland standards.
  • Retirement of old and dysfunctional fire engines, replacing them with updated fleets.
  • Establishment of standard fire station designs for provincial headquarters, urban towns, and the National Capital District.
  • Formulation of Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) with all Provincial Governments, the National Capital District Commission, and city authorities.
  • Establishment of fire stations in all provincial headquarters to improve national coverage.
  • Increase of the number of fire stations in Lae and Mount Hagen to enhance regional response capabilities.
  • Transition of staff housing away from fire stations by initiating a staff-housing program in partnership with NHC. 0
  • Launching a recruitment drive to achieve full staffing capacity.
  • Relocation and construction of a dedicated Fire Training Facility separate from the Gerehu Fire Station.
  • Centralizing all rescue operations under the Fire Service’s jurisdiction.
  • Implementation of leadership mentoring and training programs at the Joint Forces College, incorporating Fire & Rescue Department.

The Minister said the government recognizes the importance of the PNG Fire Service towards nation-building; hence, supporting the modernization of this important institution of state would be a crucial area of long-term focus for the government.

He expressed concern stating, “The fire service is an important state-run service that we pay little attention to until disaster strikes and we realise we need them.”

The Minister noted that it was through such mediocre mindset that past governments have allowed this important emergency and rescue organization to go almost unnoticed in its efforts to provide a reliable and effective fire-fighting capability when needed.

“I had the opportunity to visit the fire stations at Gerehu, Waigani, Boroko, and downtown Port Moresby as well as the Fire Training College at Gerehu in the nation’s capital last week and saw the state of affairs firsthand. Merely, observing the state of these PNG Fire Service establishments in NCD indicates to me that much work needs to be done to transform this organization,” Dr. Billy said.

The Minister noted that PNG Fire Service suffers from understaffing, under-funding, lack of basic firefighting equipment and fire engines. Under these conditions, the Minster stressed that the PNG Fire Service, “Is struggling to keep our citizens, properties and businesses safe against fire disasters and emergencies.”

He said the government needs to invest in building new infrastructure, acquiring appropriate technology, equipment and fire engines, training of manpower in modern firefighting, rescue and emergency protocols, as well as adequate funding appropriations.

He described it as unrealistic to expect the fire service to perform to expected levels with the current capacity and resource constraints.

Minister Joseph said, “As the Minister responsible, I would like to see the PNG Fire Service enter into a new era, delivering more resources, more personnel and better focused and aligned services for the country.”

“My desire is for an enhanced investment in fire and emergency services capabilities to ensure PNG Fire Service’s committed frontline officers and staff are best positioned to respond to emergency situations and keep our country safe in the face of disasters.”

“I want to commit myself to this vision of modernizing the PNG Fire Service to make it compatible with the standards of the Queensland Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services of Australia.”

“In that regard, I will be working closely with the Chief Fire Officer and his management team to put together a plan to completely transform the PNG Fire Service. It may seem like an ambitious plan but one that must be necessarily undertaken given the high stakes involved,” noted the Minister.

Author: 
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