AFTER MISSING at least two deadlines, the fire brigade’s proposed ambitious integrated command and control system, including a real-time GPS enabled vehicle tracking system, is yet to take off. After four fire department officials lost their lives in a fire in a Kalbadevi building in 2015, the BMC had decided to overhaul the fire brigade’s control room with web-based software, to run a command and control room. Currently, everything in the control room is managed manually.
An official said that a Rs 60-crore contract was awarded to set up the command and control room in August 2016. A deadline was fixed for September 2017. But the contractor has failed to start the control room. “The latest deadline ended on December 26. The agency was supposed to start a full-fledged functioning control room, but it has not happened,” said the official. However, on December 24, the first round of testing of the system was undertaken.
Officials said that while the contractor had said the system was ready a few months ago, the fire brigade felt it was not as per its requirements. “Over the last one year, we have sent multiple letters to the contractor regarding the delay,” the official said.
Delay shows BMC’s casual approach
A number of reforms were suggested after a fire in Kalbadevi killed the chief fire officer and other three officers in 2015. But the fire brigade has either failed to implement a majority of the reforms or is dragging its feet. The delay of more than a year in making the digital high-tech control room operational points towards the BMC’s casual approach towards the overhaul of the department. With the city changing everyday, new high-tech control rooms is required. Also, the project will give the fire brigade exactly what it needs to reduce its response time to incidents.
A source in BMC said the fire brigade issued a showcause notice to the contractor two weeks ago, demanding that the work be completed by December 26. “We have not invoked further action as the contractor has given us a letter about the testing last week. If the testing is not successful and if we are not satisfied, then further action will be initiated,” the official said. The BMC has till now paid Rs 36 crore to the contractor.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer (Technical) R A Choudhary said, “The control room will have an incident management system, a GPS-based vehicle tracking system, voice logging system and, most importantly, a debriefing system. Whatever activity takes place during firefighting will be revised and we can see what lacunae or problems have emerged. One fire vehicle will be able to do video recording of the spot and later that will be used during debriefing sessions to analyse the data.”