Department of Disaster Management (DDM) handed over 1,250 Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and 15 Very High Frequency (VHF) sets for the safety of those responding to fire in Thimphu yesterday.

Royal Bhutan Police, Royal Bhutan Army, and De-Suung received 400 masks, 400 safety goggles, and 400 pairs of hand gloves each. Disaster Communication and Helpline Unit received 50 PPE each.

To facilitate efficient communication among firefighters and logistic coordinators, Department of Forests and Park Services, which organises Interagency Forest Fire Coordinating Group, received 15 VHF sets.

Director general of DDM, Karma Tshering, said that PPE were shared with organisations and agencies that are directly or indirectly involved in disaster management and risk reduction in the country.

“We always emphasise on how disaster should be managed. People who are involved in management and risk reduction should be equally safeguarded and protected as those impacted by the incident or disaster,” said Karma Tshering.

The government of Japan, administered by World Bank through the Policy and Human Resource Development Technical Assistance Programme, provided fund worth Nu 1,041,000 to DDM to procure 1,500 masks, 1,500 safety goggles, 1,500 pairs of gloves, and 15 VHF sets.

Chief programme officer with DDM, Pema Singye, said the masks are essential to prevent suffocation in smoky areas. “Goggles would protect the responders who are working in a very difficult environment from dust and twigs. Gloves will protect responders from injuries which may be caused by fire, difficult terrain, and holding on to sharp vegetation.”

He added that the department distributed the equipment before the onset of the dry winter season when most of the forest fires take place.

Forestry officer with Forest Fire Management Section, RB Mongar, said that the communication sets provided by DDM would complement the initiative taken by forest and park services department through National Adaptation Programme of Action 2 to train and supply field staffs to combat forest fire.

Pema Singye said that the agencies concerned should mainstream disaster risk reduction and take initiative to procure PPE. “We hope that after seeing this, the responsible agencies in the dzongkhags will also procure basic PPE.”

The equipment was put to use the same day in Thimphu when fire razed about 10 acres of forest above Samarzhingkha.

Chief Forestry officer Gyeltshen Dukpa said that the fire did not cause much damage. “Because of the prompt action of Royal Bhutan Police, Royal Bhutan Army, and volunteers, we were able to contain the fire within a short period of time.”

Karma Cheki