The Herald (Harare)

13 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Mock Fire Drill Brings Business to a Standstill

Business briefly came to a halt in the Central Business District yesterday when the Harare Fire Department carried out a mock fire drill at the ZB Centre along First Street.

People rushed to the scene hoping to witness firefighters racing up and down the building trying to evacuate occupants and extinguish the fire which was threatening to engulf the entire building.

Acting divisional officer Fire Prevention Department, Mr Sydney Mavhurume, said the mock fire drill was intended to test the preparedness of occupants to evacuate to safety in the event of a real fire situation.

"We often carry out these mock drills whenever we feel like doing so," he said.

"In this case, the fire was real in order to achieve our goal. All the occupants managed to escape safely through safety exit points, while our fire team also moved in swiftly to stop the fire."

Mr Mavhurume said his department was impressed by the occupants' preparedness to act swiftly before the fire could claim casualties.

There were no injuries or deaths in the mock exercise.

People in shops and other businesses close by also reacted by quickly vacating their places, fearing the fire would get out of control and affect the properties.

They had not been informed about the mock exercise since it was meant to test the people's preparedness to act in times of real disasters.

In recent times, the Harare Fire Brigade has been heavily criticised for its inability to react and save properties in real fire situations, something that could have also spurred the need to stage yesterday's exercise.

Residents and stakeholders have been expressing concern over what they termed an unfortunate collapse of the Fire Brigade since most of its fire fighting equipment is obsolete

Harare mayor Muchandeyi Masunda last year conceded that in the event of a major fire disaster, the department would not be able to deal with it effectively.

Harare has 43 fire tenders some of which are as old as 58 years and out of this figure, 27 are not working, while the other 16 are said to constantly breakdown.

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