Facing floods full on


Mobilising resources: Selangor Fire and Rescue Department personnel in Section 15, Shah Alam, ensuring its assets are in working order. — ART CHEN/The Star

OCTOBER is “Disaster Preparedness Month” for Selangor Fire and Rescue Department as it rolls up its sleeves to face the impending north-east monsoon season.

Department director Norazam Khamis said preparations started earlier this year in terms of training, logistics and manpower in view of the year-end floods.

They were ready, he said, and were not waiting until the last minute.

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“Last year, we did not foresee the magnitude of the floods. It happened so fast and we had to focus on so many areas,” he told StarMetro during a briefing with firefighters at the fire and rescue station in Section 15, Shah Alam.

The floods that hit several states in December last year still haunts many, especially since the catastrophe claimed almost 50 lives.

The death toll was the highest in history and the floods displaced tens of thousands of people.

The highest number of casualties were in Selangor, while Kuala Lumpur, and Pahang namely Bentong, Mentakab and Temerloh were also affected.

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Taman Sri Muda in Shah Alam was one of the worst hit with floodwaters rising to the rooftop of single-storey homes leading to several deaths and extensive damage to properties and vehicles.

In Taman Sri Muda and Bukit Lanchong, floodwaters reached as high as 4.5m.

“We have been patrolling neighbourhoods in high-risk areas like Taman Sri Muda and Klang to help monitor the drainage system.

“If the drains are filled with rubbish, we will inform the local councils to carry out cleaning.

“If the rivers are clogged, we will inform the Selangor Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID).

“This is where cooperation between various agencies plays a big role in flood mitigation.

“We cannot work alone because we (department) only have 64 rescue boats, which is not enough, in which case we collaborate with the armed forces, police and non-governmental organisations to deploy rescue boats,” said Norazam.

Norazam says Fire and Rescue Department personnel have been monitoring drainage systems in high-risk areas.Norazam says Fire and Rescue Department personnel have been monitoring drainage systems in high-risk areas.

The department’s marine logistics comprise 41 aluminium boats, one mud boat, one rigid inflatable boat (RIB) with heavy-duty Kevlar, 17 inflatable boats, one amphibious RIB boat, and three fibre boats, he said.

The amphibious boat could be used on land and in water ensuring accessibility and access to different depths, he added.

Noorazam said when it rained for more than an hour, the department would deploy its members to hotspots and be on standby in case evacuation was needed.

“If there is a flood, we send out alerts and arrange for deployment to different areas of Selangor,” he said.

Hotspots identified

Selangor DID has identified 307 areas in the state at risk of flooding during the rainy season.

Out of the nine districts, Klang topped the list with 65 areas, followed by Hulu Langat (48), Petaling (43), Sepang (40), Kuala Selangor (38), Kuala Langat (29), Gombak (24), Hulu Selangor (11) and Sabak Bernam (nine) (see graphic on page 3).

In a statement, the department said these areas were identified during a state disaster management committee meeting on Sept 19.

The areas were determined based on previous flooding and projected risks.

The department also identified 52 flood hotspots in the state, namely those that experienced flooding on more than three occasions between 2019 and this year.

Norazam said their preparations included boat handling and water rescue training, boat tests, special multi-skill team basic training as well as survival training for 151 new recruits in Selangor.

“We have filled 96% of the manpower needed to deal with the floods, organised and planned boat placement based on hotspots and carried out periodic patrols during rain, even if no flood alerts are received,” he said.

In terms of manpower, Norazam revealed it is 1,770-strong comprising fire and rescue members, auxiliary firemen, fire department team supervisors and senior officers, as well as members of the Selangor special forces, namely Special Tactical Operation and Rescue Team (Storm), fire and rescue diving team and special multi-skill team.

He added that the department had 10 strategies to face the monsoon season.

These included setting up one monitoring post in each flood-risk area with a team of officers and boats; identifying flood-target areas; rolling out state-level logistics arrangement preparations; strengthening assets against flood disasters; enhancing preparedness of Selangor Fire and Rescue Department members; periodic patrolling in hotspot areas; requesting help from other agencies if needed; closely monitoring any weather changes; coordinating state-level Incident Command System (ICS) and preparing a flood communication plan.

“The ICS is a management structure that consists of several parts to coordinate operations during disasters so that rescues are more organised. It is set up in each district in Selangor,” he added.

According to the Malaysian Meteorological Department, the average six-month monthly rainfall precipitation in Selangor between September and February 2023 would be 170mm to 250mm in September, rising to 220mm to 370mm between October and December.

High level of preparedness

In preparation for the monsoon season, Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) set up a Disaster Management and Relief Committee to address floods.

When contacted, an MBSA spokesperson said they had also established a backup team to assist the committee that involved comprehensive participation of the city council’s staff at department, division and office levels.

“MBSA ensures that assets and machinery such as boats, chainsaws, light batons, life jackets and lights are in good condition.

“At the same time, the MBSA Rapid Response Team is on standby to monitor and mobilise in the event of floods and incidents such as fallen trees and collapsed slopes,” said the spokesperson.

The public can call the MBSA 24-hour operations room at 03-5510 5811.

Selangor Fire and Rescue Department personnel checking on a flood gauge in Taman Sri Muda, Shah Alam. — Photos: ART CHEN/The StarSelangor Fire and Rescue Department personnel checking on a flood gauge in Taman Sri Muda, Shah Alam. — Photos: ART CHEN/The Star

Klang MP Charles Santiago said the federal and state governments needed to upgrade its equipment to enable better forecasting.

“This is important so we won’t be taken by surprise like last year,” he told StarMetro.

He said the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) should learn from the floods last year and have new protocols in place.

“The public needs to know the dos and dont’s such as where they should go during floods, where to get food and who to call.

“Nadma must coordinate with the state government and district officers who chair the disaster management committee.

“There should be improved activation before, during and after floods, and better capacity-building involving village heads and NGOs so everyone is better prepared,” he added.

Santiago said last year’s floods had caused stress and anxiety among residents in Klang who now got worried every time it rained.

“The local councils and Public Works Department (JKR) need to ensure the drains are kept clear of rubbish.

“There should be stricter enforcement against those who dump waste in drains, especially business operators.

“Enforcement teams need to work together to issue on-the-spot summonses to those who dump rubbish in drains,” he said.

Santiago added that his office organised an event two weeks ago to educate people on the consequences of throwing rubbish into drains.

“We met with Klang Municipal Council representatives as well as KDEB Waste Management on drain maintenance.

“The drainage system in Klang should be better managed.

“It’s important to make sure the drains are clear because Klang is a coastal area so when the sea level rises, we cannot channel water out into the sea,” he said.

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