Ministry for Emergency Situations prepares for new heating season

At the Government meeting chaired by Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov the issue of fire safety measures for the heating period 2022-2023 was considered. Reports on the issue were made by the Minister for Emergency Situations Yuri Ilyin, akims of Zhambyl region Nurzhigitov Nurzhan and Kostanay region Arhimed Mukhambetov.

Minister for Emergency Situations Yuri Ilyin began his speech with statistics. According to him, 9,647 fires have been reported in the country since the beginning of the year, resulting in 249 deaths and 212 burns and poisonings of varying severity.

"Compared to the same period in 2021, a slight decrease of 2.2% in the number of fires, 18.6% in the number of deaths and 40.8% in the number of injured was recorded. About 6,000 fires occurred in the residential sector, which is 61% of the total number of fires. The number of people killed in fires has increased in Almaty and Astana and in Kostanay and Akmola regions," Ilyin said.

Of those killed in fires, 107, or 43%, were under the influence of alcohol, he said. In 60% of cases, the victims of fires are the unemployed and pensioners who were not involved in the fire safety training system at their place of work or study.

"This year, the heating season started on October 1 and since then there have been 835 fires in the residential sector. It should be noted that facts of group deaths and injuries in the residential sector have been registered so far," the Ministry for Emergency Situations head said.

For instance, four people in Aktobe region received burns in a temporary dwelling and were hospitalised September 30 this year. On September 25, three people, including one child, died in a house fire in the Zhetisu region.

As the minister further said, the Ministry for Emergency Situations has studied international experience of fire safety in the world's most developed countries. Global fire statistics have been analysed. Scientific studies in the field of fire safety have shown that the death of a person in a fire occurs as early as 5-6 minutes after its outbreak. And in our country the time of arrival of fire brigades is 10 minutes in cities and 20 minutes in rural areas.

In the Republic the loss of life is registered in each thirtieth fire, which is 2 times less than, for example, in the neighbouring Russia (one victim per 18 fires) and 3 times less than in Belarus (one victim per 12 fires). However, this index is 11 times higher than in the USA (one victim per 360 fires), 14 times in the UK and 32 times in France.

These results, according to the minister, in the mentioned countries are achieved by realization of one of two directions in the sphere of fire protection.

The first is the arrival of firefighters in cities within 5 minutes. Achievement of this indicator for Kazakhstan is difficult from an economic point of view in connection with the need to increase the number of fire units by more than 2 times.

The second direction, i.e. active introduction of systems of "passive" protection of the population intended for early detection of fire, notification of people and accordingly their timely exit from dangerous zones, is the most acceptable.

"In order to exclude facts of injury and death of people and minimization of damage from fires, last year the Ministry of Emergency Situations made corresponding changes in state standards in the field of architecture and town-planning regarding obligatory requirements to equip residential houses up to 10 storeys high with fire alarm systems and also obligatory requirements to equip all gas-fired premises with gas analyzers," Ilyin said.

To date, he said, they have already been implemented and residential buildings are being designed in accordance with the new regulations.

Also, according to the minister, the work on introduction of modern technologies in fire prevention and elimination continues. Automation of workplaces of duty dispatch services successfully implemented in the territorial units of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Astana, Almaty, Shymkent, Akmola, Aktobe, Atyrau, East Kazakhstan, Zhambyl, Karaganda, Kostanay, Mangystau and North Kazakhstan regions. In Almaty, Kyzylorda, Pavlodar, Ulytau, Zhetysu and Turkestan regions, the development and introduction of digital technologies is under consideration.

"We are considering all possible ways to reduce the time for providing assistance to citizens in need when a fire occurs. The State Fire-Fighting Service has recorded the location of 94,172 people with disabilities, which enables us to automatically inform rescuers about the presence of the most vulnerable citizens in a fire," Ilyin said.

According to Ilyin, the most accessible way of informing citizens about fire safety in the home remains a large-scale awareness campaign. Thus, from April to August this year, the Ministry of Emergency Situations centrally held three republican information campaigns. Information campaigns "Beware of Carbon Monoxide" and "Safe New Year" are planned for November and December.

With a view of acceptance of marked measures on increase of level of fire safety in dwelling sector from September 15 to September 30 together with bodies of internal affairs republican preventive measure "Zhatakkhana" was conducted. In total for 10 months of this year on this category of buildings there were 22 fires on which 6 persons were lost.

The large-scale event was aimed at mass explanatory work and identification of illegally operating dormitories. In 38 cases of illegal redevelopment of residential buildings as dormitories, housing inspectorates, state architectural and construction control, as well as tax authorities were informed to take appropriate measures.

"Together with the social protection agencies, 106,224 dwellings of socially vulnerable population have been registered. To date, employees of the Ministry for Emergency Situations made inspections of more than six hundred thousand houses, during which more than one million citizens were instructed and more than one hundred thousand violations of fire safety requirements were detected," Yuri Ilyin reported.

The Minister focused separately on problematic issues related to the use of household gas.

"Gas cylinder explosions and gas-air mixture outbreaks without causing a fire between 2018 and 2022 caused 346 cases, with 522 people injured, of whom 97 died. The main reasons for the deaths are violation of safety requirements in the operation of household gas appliances, lack of draught in flue ducts, tightness of connection pipes, use of faulty equipment, use of gas cookers for space heating," Ilyin said.

Today, he said, the akimats are responsible for monitoring compliance with the requirements for the safe operation of gas equipment for household and domestic consumers. Service of gas cylinders is in a competitive environment. Maintenance of gas systems, including gas supply and evaluation of chimneys, is carried out by accredited organisations on a fee basis. In order to strengthen control over the activities of service organisations, it is proposed to introduce requirements obliging them to inform about the preventive work carried out and the existing facts of safety violations. In addition, these organisations should be categorised as high risk and subject to continuous monitoring.

"During the investigation of cases of death or injury of citizens caused by faulty gas supply systems and gas cylinders, the investigating authorities should assess the quality of service and causes of the accident, especially since such practice already exists," Ilyin said.

The Minister cited the case of a woman and her four minor children who died last February in Turkestan region from carbon monoxide poisoning. This fact drew a wide public response. Investigators from the Turkestan Regional Police Department initiated a criminal case under Article 306(3) of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan Production or sale of goods, performance of work or rendering of services that do not meet safety requirements, resulting in the death of a person by negligence. An expert examination was carried out. As a result, it was established that installation and mounting of gas networks did not correspond to construction norms; during installation of gas equipment responsible specialists made a number of mistakes. As a result, the Turkestan Court sentenced the directors of two gas companies to four years in prison in December 2021.

According to the Minister, retail sales of LPG should be handled by gas distribution organisations and the owners of gas filling stations, which must ensure the good technical condition of household gas cylinders and their emergency and scheduled maintenance. At present, cities and districts of the Republic have completed organisational measures to assign the above-mentioned functions to housing (gas technical) inspections.

However, according to the Minister, the akimats are not doing enough in terms of state control in the sphere of gas and gas supply. For instance, regional akimats, except for the capital, do not form semi-annual schedules of special inspections. The reason for this is a shortage of staff. It should be noted that this issue has been repeatedly considered at various meetings, including at the level of the Government. The authority of the Ministry for Emergency Situations in this area is limited to general supervision over compliance with fire safety requirements of gas storage facilities, gas storage stations and gas supply systems for industrial consumers.

In order to improve the level of training at the initiative of the Ministry for Emergency Situations, advanced training courses for employees of housing inspections of akimats were held at the Academy of Civil Protection in April this year.

Further the Minister noted that special control of Ministry of Emergency Situations the issue of fire safety at heat and power supply facilities. In the period from July to August of this year checks of fire-prevention state of 845 objects referred to high risk were conducted. By results of checks on 611 objects, 3379 infringements of requirements of fire safety are revealed, 196 officials are involved to responsibility, instructions for elimination are handed over. Regional akimats were informed on the results of the checks.

"An important issue is the removal of dangerous technical equipment and in-built boilers from apartment buildings, social, cultural, entertainment and sports facilities and educational institutions," Ilyin said.

For example, after the 2017 explosion in Shakhan, Karaganda region, on the instructions of the Government, local executive bodies carried out work to remove built-in boilers from multi-apartment residential buildings. A total of 1,140 boiler houses were relocated to a safe distance, including 685 educational institutions, 105 health care institutions, 79 cultural, entertainment and sports institutions, 13 social facilities and 258 apartment buildings.

Unfortunately, the issue of 90 residential buildings in Zhetysu region and Almaty region has not been resolved.

At the end of his speech the Minister once again highlighted the main activities that need to be implemented to reduce the risk of major emergencies during the heating period.

According to the Minister, regional Akimats together with territorial subdivisions of the Ministry of Emergency Situations should:

1) ensure widespread work with the owners of facilities, including public and private housing, as well as service companies on compliance with fire safety standards;

2) take a set of measures to prevent fires in the residential sector, especially in areas inhabited by socially vulnerable groups, families with many children, and people with disabilities;

The Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure Development, together with the regional, Astana, Almaty and Shymkent Akimats, should:

1) take measures to increase effective control by housing inspections over housing safety, including compliance with safety in the area of gas supply with the application of administrative sanctions;

2) ensure outreach to owners of gas-filling stations on the procedures for the identification of household cylinders and the operation of accounting systems for household cylinders;

3) ensure control over the removal of autonomous boilers from educational, social and housing facilities.

Akim of Zhambyl region Nurzhan Nurzhigitov reported that the heating season this year in Zhambyl region began on October 10.

"All heat sources operate normally, and fire safety measures are in place. The fuel and energy complexes have 136 fire hydrants, which are fully operational," Nurzhigitov said.

Heating plants operate without deviations from the established temperature regime, he said.

To date, of the 371 settlements of the region 259 or 88.9% of the total population are supplied with natural gas. Before the end of the current year, 17 more settlements with 11.3 thousand inhabitants will be additionally supplied with gas.

In addition, special gas detectors have been installed in 39,884 or 18 per cent of the total number of subscribers using gas in order to ensure compliance with safety regulations. Work on the installation of gas sensors is continuing. There are 2,895 fire hydrants provided with necessary water pressure in 4 cities of the region.

According to the Akim, during the current heating season fires occurred in 60 residential houses, as a result of which 2 persons were injured. There were no fatalities as a result of the fires.

"On the threshold of the heating season 2022-2023 6,288 residential houses inhabited by socially vulnerable population groups were registered. This year, 2,981 violations of fire safety requirements were detected, of which 1,164 were eliminated. Work in this direction continues," Nurzhigitov said.

In remote settlements of the region with a population over two thousand people it was planned to create 36 fire stations by 2025, 15 fire stations were put into service. These works, according to the akim, will continue until 2025 and will be performed completely.

Akim also drew attention to the material and technical equipment of the Regional Department for Emergency Situations. According to him, for department from local budget it is allocated 554,2 million tenge, 8 units of technics, 121 fire clothes are got.

In order to prevent fires during heating season information and preventive measures are taken.

"The course of the heating season in the region is under constant control," Nurzhigitov assured.

In turn, the Akim of the Kostanay Region, Arhimed Mukhambetov, began with measures taken to ensure fire safety. According to him, the action plan on prevention of fires was approved as part of this work. Lists were formed and 100% of socially vulnerable segments of population were bypassed. A total of 1,190 violations of fire safety requirements were detected and eliminated in full. In addition, door-to-door canvassing of the entire residential sector is conducted on a daily basis.

"So far, measures have been taken to overhaul the houses of socially vulnerable groups, repair heating cookers, replace electrical outlets and clean chimneys. A total of 3.9 thousand carbon monoxide detectors have been installed. Thanks to the detectors installed in houses inhabited by large families and lonely pensioners, we managed to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning," Mukhambetov said.

The regional akimats and NGOs plan to purchase and install about 1,500 carbon monoxide detectors, he said.

Regional TV channels and LED screens broadcast video clips on fire protection. More than 3 thousand informational materials have been posted on social networks, messengers, and official websites. More than 142 thousand memos have been distributed to the population of the region. To prevent fires in the residential sector (at the expense of the local budget), 150,000 copies of propaganda materials (leaflets, brochures) were purchased.

Work is underway to strengthen the material and technical base of the regional Department for Emergency Situations.

"According to Kostanay region complex plan of social and economic development it is purchased 11 units of motor transport and 165 units of fire-technical equipment to total amount 517 million tenge. By the end of this year it is planned to purchase 2 more units of equipment," Mukhambetov said.

The akim further reported that in total there are 40 fire stations in the region that protect 121 settlements with a total population of over 67 thousand people.

At present the work on further increase of fire posts is being carried out.

"The work on fire safety in the residential sector will be continued and is under constant control," Mukhambetov assured.

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