BY SARAH HAFIZAH CHANDRA & CLEMENT ERIK WONG
A sting of achievements
October 1st marks the third anniversary of Khirudin Drahman’s tenure as Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) director.
Armed with an infectious smile and top leadership skills, the Kuching native stepped into the role with one thing on his mind — to implement “first line of defence” through training and educating the community on how to handle fires and other disasters.
The Universiti Putra Malaysia Master’s degree holder is also keen to spread positivity among his peers and subordinates.
He believes that positivity can create a ripple effect to change the negative perception of the public towards Bomba.
Three years on, Khirudin says he has achieved most of his targets, but there is still more to be done.
He shares with New Sarawak Tribune his thoughts.
Question: What are your biggest achievements since taking over the director post?
Answer: When I reported for duty on Oct 1, 2018, I made it very clear that focus would be on the 5Es (Engineering, Education, Enforcement, Emergency Response and Economic Incentives).
Sarawak requires a different approach in terms of total fire safety and coverage because the state is huge.
Based on the research we have done, the state needs at least 55 stations and this is achievable.
We previously had 32 fire stations but with the addition of temporary fire stations in Asajaya, Samalaju, Sibu and Belaga, the state now has 36.
At the same time, I stressed the importance of participation from the public, which is why we have conducted various programmes and activities under our Champion and Ownership Programme in Total Fire Safety.
This includes our Community Brigade, Suri Sedia Urus Risiko Isi Rumah or better known as Celik Suri, Summar Camp, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and Border CERT.
Through education and participation of the public, this actually contributes to our capabilities. Of course, we strive to give the best service, but we want to create champions and heroes among the community itself.
I believe my most important achievement is the 360-degree change in my staff’s mindset in delivering our services.
We are more proactive, service-oriented in all levels, approachable and community friendly. This also contributes to changing the public’s perception of Bomba and its personnel.
What about the main challenges?
The challenges in Sarawak are not confined to geographical but also the public, who refuse to engage in Bomba-related activities and dismiss any knowledge of handling emergency situations related to fire.
This is why our biggest challenge is trying to change their mentality. By this, I mean, there are still some who think that Bomba macam perlu ada tapi sik penting (Bomba is a good thing, but we can live without it).
What we are doing to combat this is to change our approach altogether. We are now targeting the younger generations, namely those in primary schools and kindergartens.
Bomba has been working hard in disseminating information related to fire hazards and emergencies to youngsters and this is a long-term plan.
This is the generation that will grow up to appreciate Bomba while also having sufficient understanding on fire safety.
What are the common misconceptions about Bomba?
The perception towards Bomba has always been that when there’s a fire, only then the public would remember us.
With this comes the misconception that Bomba has nothing to do if there are no emergencies. Unfortunately, we will often get blamed if fire occurs even though we are not the ones who started it.
We strive to change these misconceptions by educating the public and being friends with them. I personally believe that through education and when the public have knowledge, they would understand better thus able to give their support.
At the same time, we are also grateful to the media. I always remind my officers to always tell the truth regardless of who they are speaking to as information can be easily accessed.
With the media’s support, this creates awareness and provides recognition.
How can Bomba play a bigger role in uniting the community and promoting social cohesion?
What we have done so far is the Champion and Ownership Programme. Bear in mind that there is nothing in it for Bomba and it is all for uniting the community.
We are trying to implement this programme through various approaches because the programme is more well-received by the rural communities compared to the urban population.
We are also promoting social cohesion through the development of more Community Learning Centres in our fire stations.
Currently, there are two of these facilities in the state, namely in Serian and Batu Lintang.
In the coming years, we will implement more of these learning centres as the required budget for it has been approved.
These facilities will be developed in Padungan, Petra Jaya, Tabuan and many other fire stations so that it can serve as a place for the community to gather with Bomba personnel in a leisurely manner during the weekends.
How is the welfare of Bomba personnel currently?
At the moment, I believe that our personnel are well taken care of. I am thankful to the state government for the support in terms of welfare, allowances and recognition given.
In terms of allowances, salary, gear and personal protective equipment during this trying time, we have been able to cover all of the required expenses through our budget provided by the federal government.
Much to my surprise, our improved service has also gained us the support from various non-governmental agencies for which I am always grateful for.
What are the important issues that Bomba is focusing on now?
Our focus has and always will be to train and educate the community in handling fires and other disasters and this will continue to be implemented in the coming years.
I believe that through this effort, there will be significantly less fire and emergency occurrences.
Apart from that, we are also stressing on revising obsolete regulations and laws pertaining to Bomba to suit current needs.
Bomba is also implementing the Dasar Kebombaan dan Penyelamatan Negara that accounts for four main principal elements and 47 strategic cores. We hope to be able to achieve this in the 12th Malaysia Plan.
On forest fires, we are also working with the Sarawak Forest Department, Department of Environment, Natural Resources and Environment Board Sarawak, and Sarawak Forestry Corporation.
We are also focusing on the country’s first Mountain Cave Search and Rescue (MOCSAR) in Mulu and currently conducting maintenance at the various landing points for aircraft in Mulu.
There are 10 members in the MOCSAR team. They are our focal point in dealing with any emergencies in the Mulu area.
Our team is working on greatly improving our services and stepping up our efficiency in operations and management.
We may talk the talk, but rest assured, we can walk the walk.