UCVs strengthened firefighters’ capacity

Proyash, urban risk reduction project, created 266 urban community volunteers (UCVs) in Mirpur-Savar-Narayanganj-Mohammadpur

Bangladesh has around 9,000 fire fighters for the total 163 million people, according to Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence (BFSCD).
Although most of them work in urban areas, the number is not sufficient for about 350 cities across the country.

BFSCD is the only authorised government organisation, under which the fire fighters work as the first responder of various kinds disasters at around 310 stations different parts of the county.

The shortage of manpower and capacity put a pressure on the organisation to do its activities fluently, thereby the fire fighters sometimes cannot respond to the disasters timely and reduce the damages properly.

To overcome the situation and increase the capacity of the fire fighter, BFSCD in 2010 decided to prepare a sufficient number of Urban Community Volunteers (UCVs), who will work as a supporting force of the organisation in urban areas.

The BFSCD has set a goal to prepare about 62,000 such volunteers within 2020 by providing them basic training of fire fighters, but only around 33,000 UCVs have been trained so far.

In order to accelerate the BFSCD’s initiative, Proyash — an urban risk reduction project of Save the Children — decided to create the volunteers as much as it can.
The project, implemented by Social and Economic Enhancement Program (SEEP) and funded by C&A Foundation, has successfully created around 266 UCVs so far with the support of the fire service department.

Of them, about 106 volunteers are from Mirpur, 90 from Nrayanganj, and 70 from Savar.
The UCVs have made a significant contribution to increase the capacity of BFSCD by accelerating the fire fighters’ activities.
The volunteers also played an important role in terms of reducing damages and risks of the disasters instantly, as they have turned into the first responders of the calamities in their areas after the Proyash initiative.

Quote from a fire service official: Necessity of UCVs. How they helped BFSCD?
“……Evaluate the Proyash activities……,” he said.

Md Wahid, a volunteer in Dhaka’s Mirpur area, said he has been working as a UCV from 2016 and took part in control of different fire incidents in his area.
“I had a dream to be a volunteer when I was a kid, and Proyash made my dream come true,” said the 20-year-old youth.

“I have worked on controlling around seven fire incidents in Mirpur along the fire fighters so far,” he added.

“The fire fighters can control fire and rescue people and their goods quickly, when we the volunteers work with them,” said Wahid, a university student.
“Even, we can take action against the fire incidents and other disasters before the fire fighters could manage to come. It helps a lot to reduce damage of lives and assets,” he added.

Sabana Begum, another volunteer of Jimkhana area in Narayanganj district, said a number of fire incidents had taken near her residence in the last few months.
“The fire would burn the entire area into the ground if we did not receive the training to control it, she said.

“I usually gather all the volunteers, both male and female, when any fire incident takes place. We work together to protect ourselves,” said Sabana, a leader of a UCV team in the district.

She also said women must come forward to engage them to such activities, as they become the worst sufferers during the disaster.
Syed Matiul Ahsan, deputy director (disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation) of Save the Children in Bangladesh, said the volunteers are the helping hand of the fire fighters.

The UCV initiative will be more effective and the volunteers will work more actively if the authority concerned institutionalises them through formation of some guidelines for the UCVs, he said.

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