In the first civil-to-civil exchange of the State Partnership for Peace Program, a team of fire officers from North Carolina traveled to Gaborone, Botswana, to conduct a workshop for fire officers from around the country, said Robert Borgesi, a captain with the Chapel Hill (N.C.) Fire Department who currently is on military activation with the North Carolina National Guard.
Training was held in a classroom setting and workshops focused on firefighting techniques and segments of incident command systems, such as the National Incident Command System. Chapel Hill Fire Chief Dan Jones accompanied Borgesi on the trip. Jones said there were about 37 Botswana fire department (BFD) fire officers in the class representing six departments from across Botswana. They covered subjects including fire officer development, training development, operations and fireground tactics, incident command, disaster management and safety.
"This is the first time fire chiefs from throughout the country have gotten together at one time and had a meeting together," Borgesi said. "They are trying to become one voice as the fire service to the government of Botswana so they can get the supplies and services needed to perform their duties and protect their citizens."
Borgesi said they visited several fire stations and districts throughout Gaborone and reviewed the fire department's facilities and equipment. "They are lacking maintenance on their equipment," he said.
Jones said their needs are not much different than the needs in the United States. In fact, the BFD thought "they were worse off than they are and that America has everything," he said. Jones pointed to the BFD's training facilities, including a rudimentary five-story training tower and multiple burn building. He explained to fire officers that many departments in the U.S. don't have such facilities.
"The department has had little exposure [to other departments] so they think everyone has what is at the Fire Service College in England or the fire academy in Hong Kong which are premiere world facilities with top-of-the-line equipment. Their perception is based on that. They think the rest of the world is at that level."
Funding is a major issue as well as integrating the fire department into the government, Jones noted. As a result, they worked to establish the first steps in forming a Botswana Fire Protection Authority to enable all fire officers in the country can work together in improving the delivery of emergency services to the citizens of Botswana.
"They hadn't considered the concept of working together, so we explained the benefits of having chiefs in routine contacts and holding regular meetings," Jones said. "That week they formed the first committee to develop an association and we have sent them copies of bylaws fromand NFPA bylaws to develop a working document."
The U.S. Embassy will be coordinating future workshops with teams traveling to Botswana from North Carolina, Jones said.