IMPROVING FIRE SERVICES IMAGE IN THE THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES:
THE NEED FOR CHANGE
(By VIRGILUS. AKAMA.ONYEKA)
There has always been something peculiar about the Fire Services in the so called third worls countries. Those of us who are older in the profession know about developments which have taken place in the past 10 years in these countries. It is very clear that generally, the image is far from good. Clichés abound. After troubling era underdevelopment of the fire service and the accompanying years of change that hurled the professional cultural furniture around and turned much of it to junk, we today are apt to think longingly of continuous changes.
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The Fire Services are often used as a dumping ground for the never-do-wells in society, the educationally backward. Recruitments follow a pattern that berates the service, giving no attraction whatsoever to the elite. But less gossipy flaws have been as damaging to its image. These are poor leadership with concomitant poor management, confusion, duplication of roles, wasteful spending and lack of coordination.
The paradigm shift in most brigades stem from one single cause - poor management. For the well managed brigades the benefits of development is easy to count. Once it had sunk in, there was a general agreement that the old ways were not good enough, that something more active and radical had to be done. As a result, most well managed brigades are now noticeably improved. One telling example is the shifting nature of their relationship with the rest of the civilised fire service world.
For the third world fire services to improve and success in its cause, they will have to become more proactive, completely cut the shackles of the past failures, meet up with technological trends, set new mission goals and put the mechineries in motion for the new ways of doing things. The present situation calls for a journey through the new reordering of priorities which would enable us to explore the dynamics of improved technology; and institute commitment to change that will shape its 21st Century.
The circumstances of some fire services of the third world today offend the conscience of many of us in the field and pose a formidable moral challenge to the fire service family. Under-equipped, and groping for a fresh start, the fire services of the third world countries seems to slouch towards the millennium like a limping panhandler. With the consciousness to change, a reckoning for progress seems at hand. However, it seems that decades of underdevelopment and of truckering with the fire service system are at a dead end. Resistance to change with a proliferation of less qualified leadership has buried in paper nearly every major effort to improve the image of the Fire Service.
A growing view is that the Fire Service of the third world countries must be reinvented - pardon the expression - in a basic way if it is to move forward. The question that must be asked is whether these Fire Services are not headed towards some kind of disaster. The answer is probably yes. The mishmash of unkempt fire stations spread around in some municipal cities and in local governments appear to be a swamp into which good intentions can sink with barely a trace. Attempts to redeem this image have proved as futile as a stop sign in a demolition site.
What is really the problems of the Fire Services of the third world countries? The problem of leadership has had a strong influence in development of the Fire Service. Others include, lack of training and professional development, poor planning, concession of the running of the Fire Service to civilian...