LS Fire and Rescue Bill: Stepping Up Solutions to Fire Disasters
By: Victory Bernard
Recently, in July, Lagos State Fire and Rescue Services Bill 2021 was at the centre of discourse at the Lagos State House Assembly. The proposed Bill was prepared to improve effective fire and rescue operations, presenting more proactive strategies to tackle fire outbreaks in the state.
According to the Director of Lagos State Fire Service, Mrs Abimbola Adeseye, she stated that the institution of LS Fire and Rescue Service provided a platform needed in Lagos State to help educate firefighters in the government and private sector, among other major needs.
“It is to enable us to work more with a law that empowers us to function maximally. It is for us to work at reducing the number of emergencies and the damages it could cause, be it fire outbreak or any other disaster.”
“We want the House of Assembly to help us examine it more and incorporate those things we said could assist our operations and we are urging Governor Sanwo-Olu to sign the Bill into Law in time,” she said.
With keen interest to overall fire safety sector in Lagos State, various stakeholders have expressed their views and reactions regarding the proposed bill while also highlighting different factors that must not be excluded during the process of passing the bill into law.
In a chat with HSENations, Chief Executive Officer, Fresh Fountain Ltd, Monica Nwosu, commended the effort of Lagos State Government in the effort to transform the Bill into Law.
According to her, “It is commendable to want to transform into law some of these existing bills and guidelines. It gives them proper backbone and empowerment to be able to enforce. Enforcement becomes easier when something has proper backing.”
However, she called for engagement of more stakeholders in the process stressing that it would boost the ownership and complaince when it eventually becomes a Law.
“Before you can regulate something for it to become a standard, it must be thoroughly reviewed by all key stakeholders to make sure that it addresses all of the key required issues. I believe that if the existing guidelines or bill will come into law, then we need to look at the right stakeholders engagements,” she said.
Head of Public Education, Lagos State Fire and Rescue Service, Amodu Shakiru, said that the Bill was a positive step noting that it addressed the needs of all concerned stakeholders as well as issues of public concern.
“Many contentious issues are addressed in the bill. For example, the oil and gas retailing which has given way to gas proliferation in our streets and community. Also, the basic fire needs of every home and apartment is also addressed.”
According to him, provisions were also made for buildings of all kinds in the Bill while stressing that the problems associated with building collapse were also addressed.
He equally pinpointed the need for massive public orientation of the Bill “so that by the time we start the enforcement, it won’t be a case of ignorance.”
In her view, Health Safety and Environment Quality (HSEQ) Professional, Comfort Ekpe, the Bill was a good development for the fire industry that would empower businesses and managements to implement expected fire safety measures.
“The bill has considered certain critical aspects of safety in the state which may have been taken for granted by citizens and property owners, hence it will enhance the safety industry if properly executed,” she said.
In the case of fire incidents at homes, she recommended the need to make “room for basic fire safety requirements at residential buildings beside the annual levy by considering basic awareness, simulation sessions and basic fire safety equipment requirements at homes.”
“If data collection, records, data analysis and research is considered key to the sustainability of the agency too, a great success will be witnessed and measured. I wish that is inserted boldly as part of the responsibility of the agency.”
“We do hope this will not be allowed to become a money focused agency but a safety value adding development to keep the goal of property, environmental, loss control and life saving beyond compliance and enforcement,” she further said.
On the other hand, a Former President of the Nigerian Chapter of the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP-NC), Nsikak Ekam, said that the idea was a uplifting but called for a clear demarcation to be stated in the Bill to avoid conflict of functions.
While decrying the lack of synergy among Lagos State agencies in tackling fire, he emphasized the importance of enforcing existing laws over the creation of new bills.
He said, “There is no synergy with other parastatals. For example Town Planning should not be approving plan when there is no fire hydrant, electricity way of cables and so on. The other Agencies like the Water Resources and Fire Service should be involved in some of these approvals planning.”
“Some of these Service Agencies are already existing. What they just need is proper funding and they will deliver properly. Some of these Bills are duplication of effort. And when all these things are done and one cannot differentiate duties, there might be problems,” he said.
The Chairman of International Institute of Risk and Safety Management, (IIRSM), Nigeria Branch, Eugene Itua, in his view lauded the Bill stressing that it would be a silver lining, especially with the existence of outdated fire laws and legislation that did not align to modern day problems.
“The recent Lagos State Fire and Rescue Service Bill 2021 seeks to align with global best practice in emergency preparedness, management and response,” he said.
He further harped that the Safety Industry has a great role to play to complement the effort of the state government in ensuring compliance and improvement of the safety of lives and properties.