A country’s overall wellbeing highly depends on its ability to respond to crisis. Fire service is one of the the most critical emergency response services of a country. Fire authorities on all levels strive to preserve lives, property, and natural resources. It has been observed, that many emerging economies struggle to respond to a fire hazard in time, causing a huge loss to life and property. Due to increasing population and widespread habitation, there is a great pressure on the fire authorities, which often fail to be prompt due to primitive infrastructure and technology.
Today, geospatial technologies & tools are playing a major role in improving the performance of a country in all its major economy verticals such as agriculture, mining, infrastructure, transportation, logistics, security, disaster management, defense, urban planning, etc. Many fire authorities around the world have embraced GIS as a tool that helps them balance needs, uses, and hazards to promote environmental sustainability while identifying and limiting vulnerability. Effectively handling fires, whether structural fires in densely populated areas or wildfires over acres of forest land, involves planning strategic response on a regional scale. GIS can help in developing a tactical response for a specific event, formulating and carrying out a mitigation program, and analyzing incident data to improve policies and training programs.
In India, Directorate of National Disaster Response Force and Civil Defense (NDRF & CD, Fire Cell), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India, renders technical advice to States, Union Territories, and Central Ministries on fire protection, prevention & legislation. In consideration of increasing fire risks from various hazards, the Fire Cell of NDRF & CD planned to to conduct a GIS based study to understand the scale of revamping required for improving the fire services in India. The MHA commissioned RMSI to undertake a detailed fire hazard and risk analysis at district level for the country, and prepare a ten-year road map for Capital Investment and Institutional Strengthening.
The study ‘Fire Hazard and Risk Analysis for Revamping Fire Services in India’ involved assessment of risks and vulnerabilities associated with fire, analyzing gaps in the fire infrastructure (fire stations, firefighting vehicles, specialized equipment, manpower, bay structure of buildings etc.), and conducting a detailed investment and financial analysis. The assessment components included:
- Hazard Assessment – Identification of various events that could trigger a fire such as such as earthquake, wind, climate, population density, living conditions, residential area, industrial area etc. and evaluate their severity to create a ‘fire hazard risk score’ at district level categorizing the fire risk into four categories, namely – very high, high, moderate and low.
- Infrastructure Inventory through Field Survey – Development of a fire station inventory catalog based on extensive field survey of 2,987 fire stations capturing the locations and infrastructure details. The infrastructure data collected includes details of firefighting vehicles, specialized equipment, manpower, duty pattern, bay system, building structure, water supply, communication system, fire statistics etc.,
- Response Time Analysis – Reviewed the international best practices for fire service response time in developed countries with respect to the majority type of construction in those countries. RMSI used the existing fire station locations and conducted a network analysis to estimate the achievable response times with existing fire stations. Basis the global response time and network analysis, RMSI experts recommended 5 – 7 minutes in urban areas and 20 minutes in rural areas as the revised achievable response time for fire services in India. This activity helped in determining ideal jurisdiction areas for each existing fire station and identification of additional (5,572) fire stations to meet the response time criteria.
- Assessment of Gaps in Fire Service Infrastructure – Site-specific analysis was done for proposed and existing fire stations in both urban and rural areas to assess the infrastructure needed for addressing the fire safety needs of the area based on the fire risk score.
- Capacity Building– Investment and Financial Plan – Based on the identified gaps, an estimation of the investment costs for infrastructure development, capacity building, and manpower augmentation was done. Using this information, a ten-year road map was developed for modernization of fire services in the country.
- Developing a Fire Decision Support System (FDSS) – RMSI developed a comprehensive Fire Decision Support System (FDSS) under this project. It is a WebGIS Based system that integrates the fire station inventory catalog and offers features to keep it up-to-date. In addition, it provides various type of reports such as infrastructure report, gap analysis report, aggregated fire statistics, training report to conduct future gap analysis and conduct comprehensive investment and financial plan.
The outcome of this study is helping the Fire Cell to
- Achieve a detailed inventory of the fire infrastructure on a single platform for future development and growth of fire and emergency services in India.
- Develop a National Fire Risk Management and Financing Strategy for revamping of fire services in India
- Facilitate comprehensive financial analysis, automatic report generation at Fire Station/ District/ State/ Country level through FDSS
RMSI with an experience of over two decades in addressing global issues of human habitation, security & safety connected with food, calamities, use of natural resources, utilities, transportation & infrastructure, has successfully helped governments and various multilateral agencies across the world to carry out studies for disaster risk reduction & mitigation planning. The outcomes and recommendations made by RMSI experts through this study would be instrumental in putting together an effective fire hazard management strategy for the country.