GNFS law needs review to make it bite

Dr. Albert Brown Gaisie, Chief Fire Officer. (5)The Director of Research and Monitoring of the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS), Mr. Kwame Kwarteng, has suggested a review of the law that established GNFS to make it more effective.

He observed that the Local Government Act 537, which has a fire service provision, backed by two legislative instruments (LI), did not provide adequate enforcement roles.

Mr. Kwarteng said this at an editors’ forum in Accra yesterday to sensitise the media to the operations of the service as well as expose them to some fire preventive measures.

He said though the law emphasised on advisory roles of the service, it was however silent and quite ambiguous on certain aspects of the functional roles.

He said, for instance, the Act 537 states that, “The service is supposed to manage fire situations” in the country but did not specifically empower the service on the mechanisms to be used.

Again, he said that the law did not allow the service to make public its findings on the cause of a fire outbreak but direct local assemblies to ensure that investigations were conducted into fires.

He said under the law, the findings on a cause of a fire, could only be used by the GNFS to design its sensitisation and education programmes adding “under extreme circumstances, it is only the owner of a premise or building gutted by fire that can apply for a copy of the findings”.

Mr. Kwarteng further explained that the service was also obliged by law to ensure that owners of buildings, conduct fire risk assessment and later forward them to the GNFS, but did not empower the service to do risk assessment on its own.

However, he said the Act was very straightforward and clear on the advisory roles of GNFS which include designing education programmes and advising the public on fire safety and precautions.

The Chief Fire Officer, Dr. Brown Gaisie, also observed that the law was not very clear on the enforcement roles but noted that the interpretation of the law was broad enough to cater for the specific functions of the service.

He said the term, “manage fire” could be explained to mean that the service was both mandated to advise and fight fire.

Dr. Gaisie said though the law did not allow the service to make its findings public, it was however empowered to incorporate their findings in its education and sensitisation.

He used the occasion to announce an upcoming week celebration of the Fire Service which is scheduled for next week.

He said the week would be marked by series of activities geared towards redirecting the public attention to fire prevention instead of fire fighting.

By Charles Amankwa  

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