A CZECH philanthropist Petra Nemcová said, “We cannot stop natural disasters but we can arm ourselves with knowledge: so many lives wouldn’t have to be lost if there was enough disaster preparedness.”
True to Ms Nemcová’s words, life comes with so many unforeseen calamities which require preparedness to mitigate the impact.
While some calamities are natural others are due to human error or action. Whatever the case, preparedness is important.
In the recent past Zambia has witnessed an unprecedented rise in fire calamities where life has been lost and properties worth millions of Kwacha have been destroyed.
Memories are still fresh on the gutting of the Lusaka City Market and Kapalala Market in Ndola where thousands of traders were robbed of their source of livelihoods.
Taking into account the cost of the structures and the business investments lost through these fires one does not need to be an accountant to know that it is a huge draw back on the country.
It is a known fact that some of these lives and properties that have been destroyed could have been saved had there been adequate firefighting equipment and preparedness.
However, the sad reality is that over the years local authorities have struggled to deal with fire accidents due to lack of proper equipment.
Actually, with the increased population and number of districts to 108 the situation has only gotten worse.
For instance, some districts do not have fire rescue services and depend on the nearest district or the Zambia Air Force and Zambia Airports Coporation Limited for fire rescue services.
This has no doubt hampered timely intervention on fire accidents and subsequently saving life and property.
We are, however, happy that Government is alive to the challenges the country has been facing in dealing with fire accidents.
This is why Government has procured 42 fire tenders to be distributed to fire authorities countrywide to effectively deal with fire calamities.
Yesterday, Vice-President Inonge Wina on behalf of President Lungu handed over 42 fire tenders to local authorities.
While the fire tenders which have been bought at the cost of US$42 million may not be enough to cover all the 108 districts they will no doubt go a long way in preserving human life and property.
The purchase of the fire tenders is not only a step towards revamping the once neglected fire and rescue service but is also evidence of Government’s commitment to protecting human life and properties.
As President Lungu pointed out, investing in fire and rescue services are key to socio-economic development.
This is because effective and efficient fire and rescue services help protect the development gains made so far.
It is good, too, that Government will construct 11 modern fire stations around the country, one for each provincial capital and also a modern fire and rescue training facility in Kabwe.
It is good that Government is taking a holistic approach to revamping the fire industry by also incorporating training.
While Government has assured that fire and rescue equipment provision will remain an on-going exercise until all fire brigades are adequately equipped, it is our hope that the private sector will come on board.
With the support of private sector we can actually target to have modern fire stations in each district.
It is also hoped that the local authorities that have received the fire tenders will put the equipment to good use by responding promptly to calamities.