PCD in slumber as govt offices, high-rise buildings lack fire safety measures


–Staff at most offices also short of necessary training to deal with fire

–Civil Defence training and coordination assistant director says departments don’t usually respond to PCD’s letters regarding training sessions

LAHORE: Owing to the negligence of the Punjab Civil Defence (PCD) Department, most government offices, commercial and high-rise buildings across the province lack proper firefighting equipment, which poses a grave threat to human life and important records, Pakistan Today has learnt.

The mandate of the Civil Defence Department is to prepare and train the community to meet any disaster with a view to mitigating the effects of the disaster whereas inspection of fire safety measures is also its responsibility.

According to sources, PCD organised training sessions at various government departments and high-rise buildings, including commercial outlets, but all remained ineffective as a majority of staffers at these offices are still unaware of what is to be done in case of any untoward incident and how to use firefighting equipment.

“Moreover, in most of the government departments, the fire extinguishers are expired and fire alarms have not been installed either,” sources said and added that no follow-up training sessions were ever conducted.

Amid the authorities’ negligence, different government and private offices, including LDA Plaza, Ali Tower, Punjab Cooperative Society Office, Treasury Office and Library of the Auqaf Department to name a few are among the buildings where human lives or important records have been lost to fire within the past few years.

Sources said that sometimes departments themselves set the record rooms on fire and later claimed that as there was no firefighting equipment or training, the administration or staff concerned could not save anything.

“Housing, Auqaf, Irrigation, Agriculture, Livestock, Evacuee Trust Property Board, Communication and Works and Energy departments are some of the government offices that either have outdated fire extinguishing equipment or lack any altogether.”

PCD has not been efficient in checking various high-rise government departments’ buildings and most of them do not have emergency exits, they said and added that non-functional equipment at these buildings was usually thrown away instead of getting refilled whereas sandbags used for firefighting were also empty and being used as dustbins.

“We have placed firefighting equipment in our office as per the directions of PCD but no one knows how it works. The equipment was placed a couple of years ago but no one has ever checked if it is functional or not. No training has been given to the staff concerned either,” an officer of an autonomous body told Pakistan Today.

Meanwhile, PCD Training and Coordination Assistant Director Syed Sikandar Bukhari said that the department had training schedules for all departments.

“We keep writing letters regarding training on firefighting and its measures to the government and semi-government institutions, private organisations and high-rise buildings. We hold a training session at any department that gives us a go ahead. We also write letters to the bigger departments like FIA, police and district administration but we cannot force them,” he told Pakistan Today.

Sikandar further said that departments with outdated equipment needed to be checked as it was in the better interests of everyone.