Council's emergency services in bad shape

HARARE - Harare City Council’s (HCC) emergency services have been hit hard by shortages of manpower and broken down fire engines among myriad problems, the city has revealed in its latest report.

HCC has six operating ambulances from fleet of 14 whilst the fire department  had only 12 fire engines servicing the city out of the 20 within its compound.

“The committee expressed the need to urgently refurbish the waiting rooms for fire and ambulance services officers which were in bad state.

“The committee resolved to urgently recruit fire fighters and ambulance technicians as well as supporting staff,” minutes said on the report by Education, Health, Housing and Community Services and Licensing Committee.

The fire brigade and ambulance services had 412 employees with 180 vacancies.

HCC spokesperson Michael Chideme has said the fire services department was battling water problems which made it difficult to effectively deliver fire-fighting services.

Chideme said the fire department was not supposed leave its station to attend to an emergency without water, but sometimes the supply would only be sufficient for about 10 minutes into the extinguishing exercise.

“On arrival we use water in the fire tanker and within those 10 minutes, we should be connected to a water main which should provide us with a continuous flow of water for the fire-fighting process.

“However, when we get to a scene that water runs out before we are connected. So in the eyes of the public, they say the fire brigade has come with no water. In the past, when there were no water problems, people would not know what was happening because there will be a continuous fire-fighting process,” he said.

Apart from the lack of water, the department also has to deal with very few fire stations in Harare.

Currently, the city only operates from four stations, Belvedere, Waterfalls, Greendale and Kuwadzana, a scenario that increases the emergency response time.
Harare should have at least 10 to 15 fire stations to reduce the response time.

The international standard response time to areas of high risk such as the heavy industry and central business district is five minutes.

At the moment, HCC can make it in five minutes to the CBD but out of the city, the distance becomes greater since there are no fire stations at strategic positions.

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