JICA Alumni Association of Bhutan (JAAB) is an association comprised of Bhutanese nationals who have availed studies or trainings in Japan with a common aim to disseminate the achievements of Japan and Bhutan’s cooperation and to strengthen good networking among the members. Over the years, JAAB has carried out social service activities in Bhutan such as tree plantations, blood donations and mass cleaning campaigns among many others. However, owing to the pandemic, the members decided to alter their activities for 2020.
“From several proposals, the members unanimously agreed on the fire prevention and preparedness for the residents of Amochhu shelter in Phuntsholing. The community shelters at Amochhu were constructed in haste as temporary shelters for Bhutanese who were living across the border. The shelter houses more than 3000 people and the structures are built adjacent to one another with predominantly timber materials. In such a close-knit settlement, there are risk that a small fire could wipe out the whole community. Similarly, with the COVID-19 virus, a single individual can become responsible for widespread community infection. This activity was therefore deemed extremely suitable as both a COVID-19 risk mitigation measure and meeting the mandates of JAAB,” said Yangchen.
Yangchen Lhamu is an Urban Planner working at the Department of Human Settlements with Ministry of Works & Human Settlements. She is also the Vice-President of JAAB.
“The Fire Rescue Division (FRD) of the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) has both the necessary equipment and expertise in delivering fire safety drills, so we collaborated with them on this project.” The training was provided for six days to 1500 people. The first part included comprehensive training in the risks associated with fire at an individual and community level and the need for such trainings along with several engaging stories of fire hazards in the country.
The second part of the training was a mock drill led by an expert firefighter. It began with explanations about different types of fire extinguishers, their differences and how to use them. Participants were asked to voluntarily take part in the mock drill of extinguishing a controlled fire made by the trainers. “It was interesting to watch the participants do the drill as most of them miscalculated the time to press the release lever and handling of the hose was not as easy as demonstrated by the experts”, observed Yangchen. The mock drill also included the operation of a firefighting engine, ways to use the hose, controlling the water pressure and the use of pumps.
The mock drill finished with the trainers requesting the mock drill volunteers to register as front liners if such fire disasters were to occur. The registered firefighting front liners also took part in a drill with a real community alarm/siren to prepare them for real life situations.
“The objective of the training was to let the community have a hands-on experience using firefighting equipment. At the same time, the training was an opportunity to advocate for the community to be responsible in their individual homes and spread awareness of the risk associated with the hazards of fire in a close-knit community”, concluded Yangchen.
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