Valenzuela City officials aim for a wider participation of the public in protecting lives and property against the threats of fire as they gear up on further expanding the city’s brigade of trained fire-fighting volunteers dubbed as Bantay Sunog Fire Protection Program.
City Fire Marshall F/SUPT Mel Jose Lagan said, “the program is now aiming to raise the number of volunteers to a thousand to cover most of the city’s 32 barangays, concentrating on several clustered residential areas.
Among those identified are communities in Barangays Arkong Bato, Bagbaguin, Balangkas, Bignay, Lawang Bato, Maysan, Palasan, Punturin and Tagalag.
“They act as the first line of defense of their communities against fire by responding immediately in case it happened in their neighborhood, and by immediately coordinating their actions with and alerting the authorities,” he said.
The capacity-building program, a brainchild of City Mayor Sherwin T. Gatchalian, was launched in February 2009 with community participation and volunteerism as its rallying points. It was pilot tested in 10 key areas in eight barangays. The program currently has 548 certified Bantay Sunog volunteers in 46 communities in 11 barangays.
According to F03 Dennis Magbitang of the City Fire Safety Office, a volunteer would be certified upon completing a series of training on first aid and basic life support, disaster preparedness and mass evacuation, firefighting skills, fire suppression, and fire extinguisher use and maintenance.
One of the volunteers, Roberto Santiago, said he know understands the importance of composure and decisiveness during fire incidents. “Kapag meron ka nito, tama ang mga magagawa mong hakbang sa oras ng sakuna (If you have these, you are able to respond accordingly in times of an incident).”
Santiago is the team leader of volunteers in Bagong Kaunlaran community in Barangay Paso de Blas, which officials declared as a fire trap and fire-risk due to light materials used in their clustered homes.
A report from the City Fire Department, dated May 27 revealed that one of his team members, Ricky Dingle single-handedly extinguished a conflagration of combustible materials after a flaming pan and stove were thrown on it by a panicked resident.
The City Government provide each Bantay Sunog volunteer with hard hats, vests, whistles, issued IDs, as well as orange T-shirts with Bantay Sunog logo for proper identification. The city fire department also conducts regular retraining programs for the volunteers.
Recently, City Officials held a one-day seminar for Bantay Sunog volunteers Valenzuela City Social Hall to refresh their knowledge and test their skills.
The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) National Capital Region Director F/CSUPT Santiago Laguna, in his keynote speech, lauded this government-civilian partnership against the threats of fire. He encouraged everyone to “continuously provide refresher training courses because we do not want their acquired skills and the program itself to die down like a bush fire.”
On the other hand, the 1st Mayor WIN Gatchalian Bantay Sunog Volunteers Skills Competition was held a day after at the Astrodome grounds. Participating volunteers from Barangay Wawang Pulo emerged as the over-all Champion in this inter-barangay contest.
First District Representative Cong. REX Gatchalian handed down a total of PhP 8,500 cash prize to the team after topping Blaze Attack, Bucket Relay, and Pinoy Henyo game categories.
Other winners are Barangay Veinte Reales in the Fire Extinguisher Operations category, while Brgy. Malanday landed on the top spot for the Rescue Game category, grabbing a cash prize of PhP 2,000 each.
Bantay Sunog volunteers are not only trained to counter the threats of fire, but they are also equipped with knowledge on First Aid and emergency response techniques. “They are, therefore, a great boost to the city’s disaster management program and they can operate whenever other calamities other than fire, like earthquake, hit the city,” Mayor WIN remarked of the program.
The mayor has an earlier mandate to barangay officials to create its own team of rescue unit who will respond to emergencies in their respective communities.
- Mark Lester S. Cayabyab