Hamad Sabah Swar, Captain, General Directorate of Civil Defence, Ministry of Interior, Kingdom of Bahrain, discusses the vital role of Civil Defence in protecting Bahrain’s citizens and businesses from all risks
Captain Swar was speaking to Health, Safety & Security Review Middle East on the sidelines of the Bahrain HSE Forum, following the first of its kind joint mock evacuation fire drill, which showcased the world-class capabilities and expertise of Bahrain Civil Defence / Fire Brigade and BAPCO.
It illustrated the Fire Brigade’s expertise in rescue and recovery from smoke-filled and confined space, and was an impressive display of how it uses the latest technology and equipment, combined with highly trained personnel, good procedures and communications, to respond swiftly and effectively to an incident.
Promoting high safety standards in Bahrain
Discussing the role of Civil Defence, Captain Swar explained, “Civil Defence is an all-risks organisation; we take care of all risks,” adding that it covers all stages from prevention, to ensuring all premises are ready in terms of safety, responding to and dealing with incidents, and recovery. He said that Civil Defence follows a GCC code that promotes safety, which covers the use of the fire installation as well as operational issues such how to deal with an incident and recovery.
Civil Defence is at the forefront when it comes to harnessing new technology.
“We have a direct link with all the most important premises, and we have a GIS software system, which gives you maps, locations and information on for example, where the hydrants are in a building, how many floors there are, all the information we need. We are also using drones, and ipad systems for tracking vehicles.
“Technology is important to enable us to respond to incidents faster, operate with increased efficiency, reduce manpower and enhance safety. We are working now on a strategy to bring in fire robots, so if you have a warehouse fire for example, you can put a fire robot in there with no risk to life. We are exploring a lot of things such as nano media and computersised systems, and we are continually searching and trying to educate ourselves.”
Captain Swar reiterated that Civil Defence is “not only a fire service, we are an all-risks organisation.” The control, handling and storage of hazardous materials going in and out of Bahrain is an important focus. “We have codes and standards for this,” he says.
At the Bahrain HSE Forum, Lt Qasim Al Khulaqi, Head of Hazmat branch, pointed out that Bahrain is home to various plants which contain many types of chemical materials used in the manufacturing process, which are sold in the domestic market or exported abroad. These include flammable, explosive and chemical weapons materials. The Hazmat branch maintains a record of the locations of all such materials and keeps control through measures such as unannounced inspections and assessments. It has well-defined strategies for responding to incidents.
One of the main tasks and challenges of Civil Defence is reaching everyone throughout the country, said Captain Swar. He sees the collaboration with BAPCO as significant in this context. Civil Defence has been working with BAPCO for a long time to promote safety, in terms of joint campaigns and conferences.
“This is part of what we are doing together to promote safety of industrial work, the private sector and the public.
“One of our main objectives under the Ministry of Interior umbrella is to be close to the private sector and to the public to promote safety and security and educate people. Civil Defence on the official side and BAPCO as one of Bahrain’s leading companies can together help to meet the ultimate vision of safety. We hope to make it an example.
“We have a close relationship with the big companies of Bahrain, such as ALBA, GPIC and BAPCO, supporting them in incidents. We cover all Bahrain and we try to reach everyone.”
Captain Swar said that Civil Defence is working in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Interior press and Police press to raise awareness. “Many things have been done and there will be a lot of improvements in the future.
“We use every available platform to engage with citizens and reach the community; traditional media, social media, face to face engagement, inspections of all premises, doing campaigns in malls and public gardens. We let the community come into our stations, we go into schools to educate kids.
“We have a department wholly engaged in promoting safety,” he continued. “This is the vision of our Ministry. We have many HSE and fire operations conferences and the Minister always supports them. We have been instructed to do our best in this regard.
“We are now successful in making all public premises ready for any risk, and we are as professionals ready to do our job. We are working in both ways; we are preparing ourselves and preparing our citizens. At the end of the day, if we want our country to be resilient, this is the combination we need to work on. We cannot do our job without preparing the citizens.
“As you see, we have the infrastructure that will help in good HSE practice,” he added.
Training is a strong focus. “We have training schools for both the private and public sectors, from housewives to HSE professionals. We cover all sectors – safety at heights, building safety, PPE, safety in the workplace – all kinds of subjects related to SHE.”
For example, Civil Defence, as part of its awareness activities to promote general safety, recently held home safety lectures for housewives in coordination with the Northern Governorate. These covered topics such as regular maintenance of electrical wiring, the importance of fixing smoke detection devices and how to deal with gas leaks.
Bahrain Civil Defence is proud to consider itself a role model for other civil defence bodies in the region. “We are one of the first brigades in the GCC, and we share our expertise with all the GCC countries,” said Captain Swar. “They come to us to educate themselves in the Civil Defence area. We have led, and continue to lead, in terms of what we provide. Exchanging knowledge is something we have always done with the GCC countries, with other countries in the region and internationally. Our officers are trained all over the world and come to us from all over the world for training, so we are always exchanging expertise and knowledge.
“HSE is continuous training and continuous knowledge,” concluded Captain Swar. “Every day you will learn something new.”