PETALING JAYA: Fire and Rescue Department divers are on standby until March as the department braces for bad weather and flooding, especially in Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang.
Sabah and Sarawak are also bracing for floods in low-lying regions and coastal areas.
Its director-general Datuk Seri Mohammad Hamdan Wahid said over 600 divers have been on standby as early as October and are prepared to assist.
“These divers are certified for underwater rescue situations and constantly undergo training to ensure they are ready for any emergency and rescue operations.
“They will be placed all over the country with an emphasis on 200 hotspots that have been identified for flooding, ” he told The Star.Mohamad Hamdan said the hotspots were identified based on his department’s previous experiences as well as forecasts by the Meteorological Department and the Drainage and Irrigation Department.
Apart from the underwater rescue operations, Mohammad Hamdan said his personnel were also trained for rescue missions on land.
He said preparations for the floods began in September involving 12,500 personnel from 320 fire stations nationwide.
“We also have 14,500 volunteers on standby to assist us.
“This year we also appointed 24 fishermen in Kelantan and Terengganu as part of our Surface Water Rescue Team, ” he said, adding that these men were roped in because of their knowledge of local hydrology and topography.
He said during the northeast monsoon season fishermen would not be able to go out to sea because of the dangerous conditions.
“Its a win-win situation to appoint them as auxiliary fire officers.
“They have in-depth knowledge of the waters and topology. They will also receive an allowance of RM8 hourly for their service, ” said Mohamad Hamdan.
He said 12 of these auxiliary fire officers would be stationed in Kelantan and Terengganu.
“This year it will be very different as we are preparing for a disaster within a disaster with the current Covid-19 pandemic going on, ” he said, adding that a total of 450 boats and 200 lorries are on standby to assist with possible evacuations.
He said testing of rescue equipment and assets were constantly being done to ensure no breakdowns, especially during a rescue situation.
“In the event of a breakdown, our Engineering Department will be deployed.
“We have a response time of 24-hours set for them to respond to such situations, ” he said.
Mohammad Hamdan said his personnel would also ensure standard operating procedures for Covid-19 are adhered to at all times.
“We have marked seats in our boats and lorries to ensure physical distancing.
“Our personnel will also be supplied with personal protective equipment, face masks and gloves.
“Victims will also be given personnel protective equipment during rescue missions, ” he said, adding that they would also be screened regularly and have their temperatures taken at their respective fire stations.
He said they would also liaise with the Health Ministry and National Security Council in the event any of the quarantine centres are affected by floods.
In a statement yesterday, the Meteorological Department issued a Yellow Weather Warning for Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Johor and Sabah.
Heavy rain was expected in Kelantan and Terengganu from yesterday until Friday.
For Maran, Kuantan, Bera, Pekan and Rompin in Pahang as well as Mersing and Kota Tinggi in Johor, heavy rain is expected from Thursday to Friday.
Meanwhile in Sabah, Lahad Datu, Telupid, Kinabatangan, Beluran, Sandakan and Kudat are expected to experience heavy rain from Friday to Saturday.
The department said on these days, strong winds may occur at coastal areas along the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah.
Thunderstorms, heavy rain and strong winds are also expected along the west coast of the peninsula in Perlis, Kedah, Pulau Pinang, Perak, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Negri Sembilan, Melaka, Johor, Cameron Highlands, Lipis, Raub and Bera, western coast of Sabah and Sarawak especially in the evenings and nights.
These situations could potentially cause flash floods and structural damage.