If what Chief Fire Officer Edwin Ekow Blankson is saying has validity, then Ghana may very well not be in dire need of the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) at all (See “Stop Disturbing Us with Prank Calls – Fire Service Warns” 5/4/19).
According to the Chief Fire Officer, of the approximately 300,000 fire-emergency calls received by the GNFS between late December last year and early January this year, only three were calls from people who were genuinely in distress.
This means that only 0.1-percent of emergency fire-oriented distress calls were genuine. What this further means is that practically speaking, Ghana may be the safest country in the world when it comes to the level of fire damage to both public and private properties, and the danger posed by fire to individuals as well.
But, of course, the reality on the ground tells a totally different story altogether. And that totally different story is that even marketplace fires alone take a heck of a lot of time and energy from the personnel of the GNFS that is evidenced by this criminally high spate of prank calls. Such calls are obviously very dangerous to the kind of work that our firefighters do daily; and they could very well exponentially increase the incidence of road accidents, especially during the peak traffic hours – or rush hours – on our service or feeder roads and highways. What this means is that unless prompt and strictly enforced punitive measures, aimed at drastically reducing such nuisance calls, are put in place, the critical first-responder services of our firefighters will be significantly vitiated or undesirably weakened.
Which also means that taxpayer money would be wastefully spent, if it is not already being wastefully spent, that is. Indeed, from what Chief Blankson is telling us, the bulk of budgeted spending on firefighting activities may already be going down the drain or the tubes, as New Yorkers are wont to say. This is money that could very well be more profitably spent elsewhere, such as in the provision of services to the very poor and destitute. But, of course, I am not hereby blindly advocating for a drastic reduction of the budgetary allocation to the Ghana National Fire Service. In all likelihood, the current budget of the GNFS may very well be woefully inadequate. Which is why generally speaking, the firefighting capacity and capabilities of the GNFS personnel vis-à-vis the many recent fire outbreaks at several of the nation’s biggest marketplaces have not been very impressive, although it is also quite likely that the bulk of such firefighting failures may very well have to do with extremely poor safety measures, such as the ready accessibility of fire hydrants and the adequate supply of water resources.
And so perhaps it is in the latter aspect of safety measures that the Akufo-Addo government needs to target a considerable percentage of its firefighting resources. Stiff penalties also need to be imposed on anybody tracked down and found to be guilty of placing prank calls to any of our GNFS stations across the country, with the stiffest penalties being imposed on urban located and/or resident prank callers.
Penalties could range from a minimum jail term of three to six months, and monetary fines ranging from a couple of hundreds of cedis to several thousands of cedis, based on the gravity or impact of such crime on the ability of the GNFS to effectively deliver on its services.
That Ghana has almost effectively become a lawless country or a country in a virtual state of anomie can be scarcely gainsaid. In short, something must be done and promptly so.
*Visit my blog at: kwameokoampaahoofe.wordpress.com Ghanaffairs
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., PhD
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Columnist: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.