Interface with Mr. Ashok Menon Directorate of Fire, Goa Fire & Emergency Services.
1. Having more than 30 years of experience in Fire & Emergency Services. What is your experience on the current Fire Safety and Security Industry in India?
A. My career Journey in the Field of Fire Fighting started off after having appeared for the All India Entrance Exam of Sub-Officers Course in 1984.
I was later deputed for field attachment as a Trainee to the Ahmedabad Fire Brigade. I was exposed to a reasonably modern set of equipments and methods of work there. The General scenario in the country since then has improved tremendously, at least in urban areas. There is still
large yawning gap in Fire Station Coverage, Men and Equipment. The Centre is extending help to bridge this gap to the extent feasible.
2. Goa became 25th state in the union of India in 1988 there after the fire service was re-christened as state fire & emergency services. How do you plan to look forward keeping in tune with latest technology?
A. Goa became a full-fledged State in 1987. When my actual work life started in Goa in April 1986, the Department was being set up and it
was beginning to train the required number of people, reaching out to interior places where no Fire Stations existed etc. After that first round of expansion, there was a consolidation phase, where we concentrated more on improving the equipment. Today, Goa Fire and Emergency Services is a Multi Hazard Emergency Response Force, capable of meeting various contingencies. We have a clear view of the requirement of new Fire Stations, the additional equipment to be procured, and the skill training and capacity building to be made available to our staff.
3. What were the difficulties and obstacles faced by your team during any rescue task for example You had led the search and rescue team from Goa during the earthquake in Gujarat in January 2001 and are the recipient of a commendatory note for extreme devotion to duties. Share us the experience about the same?
A. The challenge to undertake Search & Rescue work in the devastated earthquake areas in Bhuj, Gujarat was daunting. The District had
been flattened by the devastating Earthquake. The Country’s ability to meet such colossal emergencies was well demonstrated there.
The commendations that my team and I received were a good morale booster. The experience and confidence we gained was also valuable.
Today, we can seamlessly integrate with National level Agencies like the Armed Forces, NDRF, Central Para Military Forces etc, in any
4. Share your achievement and appreciation against the hard work done by you and your team during the calamity.
A. In a recent incident on 4th January 2014 at Chawdi, Canacona Goa, where a Ground plus 5 storeyed Building under construction had collapsed claimed 31 lives of workers and 21 injured. Two persons who were trapped under the debris was rescued alive after 4 ½ hours of Rescue operation. The specialized Hydraulic and Pneumatic equipments were put in to operation, and we were able to mobilise other heavy machinery through industry contacts.
I had personally led the Search and Rescue operations. We were able to save 23 lives and 31 dead bodies were extricated. Every member of the Rescue Operations team was working round the clock for 10 days and the Search and Rescue Operation was called off on 14.1.14. The Directorate of Fire & Emergency Services was appropriately appreciated by the Government for his role. The Honourable Chief Minister had also personally
led the Crisis Management Team.
5. Goa being a coastal region how you prepare your team/department to face such attacks especially with of terrorist activities? What is the security measures deployed by the Department during the festive and vacation (peak season) as Goa is one of the best tourist place in India?
A. The Coastal location of the Goa State makes it a preferred destination for practically the whole year. During Holiday Seasons, the situation becomes tough to handle. The Security apparatus of the State works in a co-ordinated manner, and we have District Disaster Management Authorities in North and South Districts. Our Department is represented in both these Bodies.
To handle Seasonal problems like access to narrow lanes etc, we have introduced Motor Cycle Borne First Response Units/Teams who can
quickly respond to emergencies in such areas. Quick Response Vehicles are also being inducted into our fleet. Besides, we have the State
Disaster Management Authority with Hon. Chief Minister as the Chairman, and Hon. Revenue Minister as Deputy/Vice-Chairman.
The State Chief Secretary chairs the State Executive Committee of the Authority.
6. As an officer, you are a direct front line representative for your respective department. What are challenges and the difficulty faced by you during the time of emergencies?
A. We have not faced any particular problem because of need to fight from the front. Our training has built that confidence into us. More sophisticated equipment for communications during any major break-down of normal channels would add to our effectiveness. This aspect is being taken care of, and the Government is very supportive of all such proactive measures. Government has approved a Scheme of Safe Goa 24x7 Emergency Monitoring System which will be developed on a IoT platform.
Under this the major occupancies such as High Rise Commercial Buildings, Hospitals, Banks, Important Government Buildings and 5 Star Hotels etc. having their In-built Fire Protection System will be monitored real-time for their continuous functional efficiency and any breakdown in the system will be taken note of promptly for remedial action. This will be functioning on an Internet of Things (IoT) Platform and is integrated with the e-Governance System of the State Government.
7. What precautionary measures to avoid fire accidents, training fire personnel to avoid casualties and updating equipment's, as per specific requirements?
A. The Department periodically conducts Fire Safety Audit of Vulnerable Occupancies, besides checking such occupancies at the initial stage. Various training Programme and courses on Fire Prevention and Response are conducted for various sections of the Society. The School Teachers at Secondary and Primary level are also trained in the Training of Trainers (ToT’s) programme in Basic Fire Safety and Evacuation Drill.
As part of the Disaster Preparedness efforts, citizens and Panchayat Officials at Village level are also given sensitisation Training.
The Department is launching a Scheme shortly called the Goa State Disaster Response Cadet Corps, wherein skill Training for Disaster Response will be imparted to Rural and Urban Youth of the state and they will be certified for these skills. This qualification will get them priority in employment and they would smoothly integrate with the State Disaster Response Agencies as and when Disaster Situations arise.
This is a pioneering effort in the Country and it can be adopted by other States and Agencies as well.
The Welfare activities for the Departmental Personnel include a Scheme for an Ex-Gratia Payment of
Rs. 20 lakhs for death or full and partial disability incurred on duty. Annual Medical and blood donations camps are arranged annually.
During the National Fire Prevention Week from April 14th to 20th, Mass Public Fire Safety Awareness Campaign is held through Print and Electronic Media. Street Plays conveying the message of Fire Safety and Industrial safety are also part of the fire safety awareness programme. From last year, we have introduced one new activity “Goa Fire Run”, which is a Run to Pay Homage to the Firemen Martyrs and also to spread Fire Safety awareness. The Goa Fire Run will be of 21km, 10km and 5km Run and Walk. This year we are expecting a large participation from across the country. All Goa Poster Drawing Competition for School children of 7 to 10yrs and 11 to 14 years and GK Quiz Competition for youth are also part of these efforts. The Industrial community in the State has been extending their unstinted support to such activities.
8. Goa is exploring day by day what type of market does it set for the fire safety and security professional?
A. The Fire Professionals trained in Goa are already gainfully employed. The quality of training imparted has won International recognition,
with requests coming from various sources for training foreign Fire Service Personnel at our Training Centre. Once Central Government approval
is received, we will be conducting such courses. For the long term, we have in view plans for upgrading the present Training Centre to an Institute.
9. Your view for the Fire Combat 360, Mumbai. How it had helped to change the fire safety standards?
A. The Fire Combat 360 conceived by the Director, Maharashtra Fire Service and Chief Fire Officer, Mumbai Fire Brigade was a fresh idea for
other States to emulate. My State Goa and I personally participated in the organisation of the Conclave and Event and listened to interesting
new perceptions and contributed our ideas too. The competitions will help us trim our response timing further with the experience gained from Mumbai. The recommendations of Fire Combat 360 will receive due attention from the Standing Fire Advisory Committee, MHA, Government
of India and all viable ones will get adopted by the States.
10. Any message/suggestion you would like to convey to the people related to the safety measures as life is very precious gift?
A. Fire and Emergency Services is a Noble Profession, and we are guided by our Motto “We Serve to Save” and
it calls for absolute dedication.