Des Tidbury QFSM, Advisor to Civil Defence, Bahrain Ministry of the Interior
Filled with excitement and of course a little trepidation, my wife and I boarded the plane at Heathrow Airport on 31 May 2019 for our new life in the Middle East. Yes, it was true, I had been appointed to the role of Advisor to the Kingdom of Bahrain’s Civil Defence. On completing my three year contract as Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor and Inspector for Wales (2015 – 2018) I was looking for a new challenge, something different, and something that would widen my horizons on a personal, as well as professional level. What better to stretch me than to move my home and family over 5,400 km away to a country that prior to February 2019 (for my interview) I had never even visited.
In geographic terms Bahrain is a small country, being an island covering 778 square km with a coastline of 161km. It is the third smallest nation in Asia after the Maldives and Singapore. However, Bahrain is densely populated with 1,627 people per square km which ranks it the 7th in the world.
From a Civil Defence perspective the Kingdom has many infrastructure risks, for instance its International Airport (that handled 8 million passengers in 2010), the King Fahd Causeway connecting the country to Saudi Arabia (18 million transits recorded per annum), the extensive Khalifa Bin Salman Port and the presence of the US Navy’s 5th Fleet in nearby Juffair. Combine this with an extensive network of oil and gas pipelines, refineries, over 3000 km’s of roadway, power stations, major factories and industrial areas there is plenty to keep the logistics and pre – planning teams busy.
As we know the risk of fire, accident or injury is always amplified by the human touch! And with the densely populated areas of Manama (Capital City), Muharraq, and Riffa the chances of an incident occurring are ever present. This is especially so in the older districts such as the Manama Souq where occupancy rates and building density are high combined with a lack of modern fire protection measures.
Major General Tariq Al Hassan, Chief of Public Security is ultimately responsible for the Civil Defence, Police, Special Forces, Counter Terrorism Centre and the Coast Guard. Reporting to the Chief of Public Security is Director General Colonel Ali Mohammed Al Hooti who runs the Civil Defence on a day to day basis.
In line with many Fire and Rescue Services the Civil Defence is divided into four key functions all headed by a Director. These being, Operations, Protection and Safety, Planning and Development, and Administration.
Currently, Bahrain Civil Defence operates from eleven Fire Stations, one being a small satellite station on the island of Hawar. In addition, resources are dispatched on a daily basis to three operational standby points to maintain strategic cover. The organisations training Centre is based at Riffa which incidentally is co-located with the busiest Fire Station, attending 1,720 incidents in 2018.
On the subject of resources, the current strength of personnel numbers 995 with 884 being allocated to frontline operational duties. That said, the Chief of Public Security has just given approval for the recruitment of a further fifty Firefighters. All Stations, except Hawar Island, operate a three shift system with watch strength at the large multi appliance stations of Manama, Muharraq, and Riffa typically between 22 and 25; at Mina Salman and Isa Town 17/18; Hamad Town, Budeiya and Dumistan have 13, Hidd Town on 9 and finally the King Fahd Causeway Station having 6 per shift. Hawar Island, a registered nature reserve, forms part of an archipelago of the west coast of Qatar. Due to its remote location, accessible via boat from Bahrain, and the low risk, the island is served by two watches of 5 firefighters working one week on, one week off.
The target response time for Bahrain is for the first appliance to arrive within 7 minutes. This is achieved through a dual approach with 6 strategically placed compact Rapid Intervention Vehicles (RIVs), designed to make fast progress through dense traffic, backed up by a 5/6 crew pump (called Fire Rescue Tenders), of which there are 24 in total. As is common in this part of the globe, water can often be at a premium, so reliance is placed on a fleet of 21 Water Carriers (WC) and two bespoke large bulk carriers.
Civil Defence also runs two Foam Tenders for a range of special risks and five aerial ladders. The aerial appliances consist of both turntable ladders and hydraulic platforms with varying reaches ranging from 27 to 54 metres, right up to the giant 112 metre Bronto HLA.
Hopefully this article will give the reader a general overview of the organisation as it currently stands. However, the King of Bahrain, His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has ambitious plans for the Kingdom working up to a vision for 2030. The 2030 vision is a comprehensive economic blue print for Bahrain, providing clear direction for the continued development of the Kingdom’s economy and, at its heart, a shared goal of building a better life for every Bahraini. Clearly, improving the lives of the Bahraini communities includes keeping everyone safe. This of course has an impact on many agencies and Government Departments but none more so than Civil Defence.
It is to this end that the Chief of Public Security invited me to assist the Civil Defence to develop its plans and to create a Change Management programme that will enable the organisation to keep pace with the ambitions plans in place for the Kingdom of Bahrain.
I look forward to writing further articles that chart the development of the Civil Defence and its personnel as we embark on an exciting but demanding journey. Des Tidbury QFSM, Advisor to Bahrain Civil Defence
For more information, go to www.gdcd.gov.bh