Safer Pacific Communities Program
In 2016 the Country Fire Service was approached to mentor the development of a fire and emergency service for the Republic of Kiribati, as part of a twinning partnership. Kiribati is an independent island nation in the South Pacific (Oceania) with a population of about 120,000 people living on a total of 32 atolls and one island, spread across 3,300 kilometres of South Pacific Ocean.
Kiribati is classified among the least developed countries in the world; this is primarily due to Kiribati’s remoteness, small population, limited resource base and entire population living in low coastal zones, as well as a large reliance on fishing revenues within the region.
Similar to other Pacific countries, Kiribati’s geographical location makes it prone to natural disasters, while its lack of capacity, technology, and resources reduces its ability to respond to unpredictable catastrophic challenges. Common hazards and disasters affecting the nation include droughts, extreme heat, fire, epidemics, tsunamis, flooding, and cyclones. High tidal changes affect the capital, where large fluctuations of 0.5 metres in sea level can cause houses to be washed away when high tides come in. Furthermore, physical exposure to climate change leaves it vulnerable to rising sea levels, projected to rise by 7-17cm by 2030, which will further affect coastal infrastructure over 80% of Kiribati’s population live in low-lying coastal areas.
With one of the highest population densities in the Asia Pacific, Kiribati had a quickly growing reason to upgrade their domestic fire and emergency service capability.
The fire service in 2016 was centred around formally uncoordinated efforts, directed by the police, with the resources of several government departments, and supported by civilians and a water carting vehicle and, if available, the assistance of the Kiribati Airport Rescue and Fire Service.
An opportunity existed to create an overarching service and management framework to best suit the islands for all kinds of emergencies.
Under the guidance of former CFS Chief Officer Greg Nettleton and Deputy Commander Matt Davis, the CFS developed a plan for the creation of an all-hazards whole of nation service for the Republic of Kiribati.
The CFS has started this plan by supplying four fire trucks and firefighting equipment from our South Australian fleet. Along with these fire trucks, CFS has provided VHF radios, smart phones and laptop computers to be utilised within their Emergency Operations Centre. CFS has trained 50 of Kiribati’s Government personnel to a basic level for defensive firefighting operation only. These trained personnel are fully kitted out with firefighting personal protective clothing (PPC).
A community education program has also been developed and implemented for the islands to help the general population be aware of and prepared for fire risks, through their already existing programmes in country.
CFS is currently planning to provide Road Crash Rescue and Incident Management training for the Kiribati Fire and Emergency Service and members of their government, with additional fire trucks and equipment along with PPC.