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Nairobi County says disaster response is open to all, defends idea of boats

The Nairobi County Government has defended the qualifications of its disaster management and coordination staff following criticism from some members of the public.

The sector’s chief officer, Mr Bramwell Simiyu, says a postgraduate degree or any other qualification does not disqualify a person from applying for a job in the rescue team.

In an interview, Simiyu said it is not the level of education that determines whether they are good enough to handle emergencies in the department.

According to Simiyu, such criticism only denigrates the team constantly on call to handle up to five cases of fire and other emergencies in Nairobi County.

He also said that regardless of their entry qualifications, successful candidates usually undergo rigorous training to equip them with the necessary skills to deal with emergencies.

“Being a paramilitary service means that you take on board members of the public who come with different skills and qualifications. They have no previous training in firefighting,” says Simiyu.

Like the police, Simiyu said the Nairobi County Rescue Team usually undergoes six months of professional training in firefighting to qualify as firefighters.

“It does not mean that when you join a fire service, having any form of degree is an advantage because you are taken through the six months of training, just like the police recruits are taken through the training at Kiganjo to become qualified police officers and in our case to become firefighters. There is absolutely nothing wrong with someone having a degree in another field.”

This follows recent attacks by Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna, who questioned the ability of some of the department’s officers to handle disaster emergencies.

Senator Sifuna pointed out that the chief disaster management officer has a degree in public relations, while the chief fire officer has a master’s degree in theology.

At the same time, the Chief Officer said that the recent floods had vindicated his idea, which had been misinterpreted by the public when he suggested that the county needed to procure water rafts in preparation for El Niño and heavy rainfall.

He said the need for such rafts was evident during the recent floods when the Kenya Red Cross used boats in some affected estates to rescue stranded Kenyans.

Simiyu said the county has started training its divers to focus on rescue operations during heavy rains.

“We have a team of 15 men and women who are undergoing training to assist the Mombasa County Government and its water rescue unit to improve our game so that we can effectively respond to water and flood-related emergencies.”

More than 10 people lost their lives in the recent rains, and thousands were displaced from their homes.

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