Upgrade firefighting system

Updated: 2014-05-07 09:49

(China Daily)

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The death of two young firemen in a fire in Shanghai on May 1 is not only a tragedy, but also a wakeup call to the authorities to introduce real professionalism among firefighters and upgrade the management, says an article in Beijing News. Excerpts:

Two firemen, Qian Lingyun, 23, and Liu Jie, 20, died while battling a blaze in a residential building in Xuhui district of Shanghai on May 1. They were holding hands - ostensibly to help each other - after a strong backdraught pushed them out of a window on the 13th floor.

Many firefighters have died on duty in recent years and quite a few of them were very young. According to a report in Chinese-language magazine People's Police last year, the average age of the firefighters who died on duty in China since 2006 was 24, with the youngest being only 18.

Many blame the high number of deaths on the lack of professionalism among firefighters. Firefighting is a risky profession, but that does not necessarily mean a high death rate of firefighters - at least, that is not the case in many developed countries.

To safeguard firefighters against the obvious dangers, the authorities have to upgrade the management and training systems and raise their salaries. For example, the annual salary of a firefighter with five years' experience in New York City could be more than $99,000, not including other benefits such as lifelong health insurance for him and his family.

In contrast, active duty soldiers form the majority of firefighters in China and most of them are only temporarily employed as firefighters. Besides, many of them have to quit their job after their two-year service as firefighters, signifying the high risk and low pay in this profession in China.

Professionalization of the firefighting system can enhance the efficiency of firefighters and thus reduce the number of casualties. To prevent the death of more firefighters, the authorities should allocate more funds for the professionalization of firefighting departments across the country.