Fire agency looks to upgrade volunteer firefighter clothing, equipment

JIJI

The central government will reportedly improve protective clothing and equipment provided to volunteer firefighters across the country after 254 such volunteers were killed in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The internal affairs ministry’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency has decided to review standards for protective clothing for volunteer firefighters, sources said Tuesday. It is also considering giving all volunteers radio equipment.

In March 2011, only a handful of volunteer firefighters had radio equipment. This caused delays in receiving important information in the quake zone from disaster management headquarters, and many firefighters died because they did not have enough time to escape the tsunami.

In addition, many were injured during rescue operations and work to remove rubble and debris.

The agency has decided to review the standards for clothing and gear, such as uniforms, shoes, radio equipment and fire extinguishers, the sources said.

It plans to lend protective footwear and gasoline-powered and hydraulic cutting tools to volunteer firefighter groups. It will also provide training.

If the clothing and gear prove effective in improving safety and facilitating rescue operations, they will become standard issue, according to the sources.

One problem, however, is that such equipment would have to be paid for by municipalities.

The agency plans to discuss with local-level authorities how best to resolve this problem, the sources said.