Tehran Fire Department: A modern fire service in a growing city with specific challenges
With the recent disaster in Tehran where 16 firefighters were killed in the line of duty, while fighting a fire in a 17-story building, that collapsed on them, we thought it appropriate to give you an overview of the Tehran Fire Department (TFD).
As with many other Fire &Rescue Services in the world, fire departments in Iran have developed from many individual firefighting units to become an integrated and advanced Fire & Rescue Service.
During this development phase in Iran,Tehran Fire Department has developed into a fire and rescue service that provides the community with the required protection from the risks found in a large metropolitan city.
TFD has been the most advanced and innovative fire department in Iran. Tehran has a population of over 10 million people and is a dynamic city that is developing at a rapid pace, constructions is set to increase more than ever this year with many residential, commercial, industrial and tall buildings being planned for.
This huge increase in development and population has resulted in firefighters facing a number of new hazards and challenges that have not been a matter of concern before. Even through tight economic times, Tehran Fire Department has developed and equipped itself with state-of-the-art fire appliances, tools and equipment, to meet the new challenges presented by urbanization and colossal growth, there is still a very bumpy road ahead of TFD in order to be able to provide the required level of protection against the various fire and rescue incidents in our society today.
In line with this development, TFD now has 130 fire stations in order to be compliant with NFPA standards for a city like Tehran.
Fire Suppression: The largest division within Tehran Fire Department is the operation division which acts as the
window of the whole organization and takes a wide range of responsibilities.
Technical teams within the operation division include:
Hazmat Material Response, Diving, USAR, mountain rescue and marine emergency response teams.
Fire Prevention and Protection Division: The general responsibility of this division is to protect citizens by means of fire safety inspections and implementation of the required level of firefighting and fire safety installations in building.
The division manages the fire safety codes and regulations in buildings with more than 5 stories, gives fire safety approval and certificates to builders and owners when all fire requirements are met in their buildings.
Training Division: One of the most important achievements that Tehran Fire Department has made in recent
years is to develop an international fire and rescue training center that provides all training programs for recruits, firefighters, junior officers, senior officers, volunteer firefighters and members of public, as part of the public
With the increase in the number of operational and nonoperational staff (approximately 4900 people) and also taking into account the new challenges and hazards of urbanization faced by firefighters and public, Tehran Fire Department’s training center has grown.
Assisted by the UK Fire Service College (FSC) at Moretonin-Marsh, TFD has developed many different practical training buildings and facilities. This is complemented by up-to-date training programs to promote and hone skills of operational crews and commanders.
The Training Division also works within the community to educate and raise awareness on issues of fire safety.
There are a number of other divisions in TFD each of which has its own range of responsibilities aimed at moving
and maintaining the organization such as; the dispatch center, urban planning and development, finance and administration, international and public relations and logistics. A detail description of each of these is beyond
the scope of this article.
Challenges Faced by Tehran Fire Department
As mentioned earlier, recent urban and industrial growth presents several new hazards and challenges to firefighters.
Some aspects of these challenges seem to be common between fire departments all over the world with some hazards having a more significant impact in some countries. For example, in Iran, with its changing risk profile it must focus on promoting a safety culture among its people, because it would be very difficult, if not an impossible herculean task, to protect the community without Tehran Fire Department, raising people’s awareness of their
own safety to ensure their full and active participation. To this end, some of the challenges that the Tehran Fire
Department faces in its working with its community are as follows:
Buildings Codes and Regulations:
One of the trouble spots for the Tehran Fire Department is to enforce builders and owners to abide by the fire safety
standards and regulations. The challenges arise when TFD, which is responsible to give fire safety approval, when the construction work is finished.
However, builders and owners meet the safety requirements when their building is being complete, but shortly after the completion and receiving fire department’s approval and certificates, they do not feel obliged to comply with the fire safety regulations and requirements anymore. In a worst case scenario TFD does not possess powers and/or leverage to make them comply. As a result, there are high rise buildings that may not be compliant with the fire safety standards required by Tehran regulations.
Another problem is high density urbanization. In other words, there are parts of the city in which high rise buildings with more than 6 stories have been built in a very narrow pathway that accessibility is almost out of the question for fire appliances and any hydraulic aerial platforms.
One other challenge faced by TFD is that the content of a building may become more hazardous because of
the use of the building.
The owners, sometimes store highly flammable and combustible materials in their building that have not been mentioned to firefighters when they carry out Pre-Incident planning. Pre-Incident planning identifies and records
the hazards in the buildings in the responding area. Because of this, in some incidents, firefighters get surprised when, for example, they are responding to a simple kitchen fire in an apartment and they are confronted with a store of butane cylinders, or when they are extinguishing a household warehouse, they may face with Hazardous Materials being kept there which needs a totally different mode of operation.
Taking a glimpse at the challenges mentioned above, one may arrive at understanding that most of these problems may be mitigated or solved if we place more emphasis on public education and raising people’s awareness of the safety aspects in their life.
Another conclusion we may jump to is that, although Tehran Fire Department may be proud of the development that has been made in recent years in different aspects ranging from purchasing a wide range of equipment and appliances to conducting training programs and focusing on human sources in the organization, there is still
a very huge burden and responsibility we shoulder in order to make the community a safer place in a rapid
Thus, we do need help from more advanced countries and Fire & Rescue Services in the world regarding this in
order for us to be able to keep up the pace with the most successful and effective fire departments in the world and do our job as effectively as possible.
Navid Bayat is a professional firefighter in Tehran Fire Department (TFD).
In 2011, following the needs of the organization, he was transferred to the Tehran International Fire & Rescue Training Center as an
English-Persian interpreter for different special courses in various levels which were conducted by some foreign instructors.
He is currently the Head of R & D Office at the Tehran Fire
Department and an advisor to the CEO of the organization with respect
to international relations.
Iran is a Member Nation of the CTIF International Association of Fire & Rescue Services since 2016.