Wed, 19 Mar 2003

Govt building managers underestimate fire hazards

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The arson attack that badly damaged the sixth floor of the finance ministry building and destroyed important documents stored there seems to have had little impact on the managers of government buildings with many still apparently reluctant to improve data and information protection systems.

"We have not yet allocated funds (to improve the existing systems). We'll have to think about it," said Rusmariyarso from the Ministry of Industry and Trade's records and information center.

Rusmiyarso admitted that all digital data meant for back-up files was stored in fireproof cabinets, but all paper documents were not.

Similarly, Aris Warisman of the House of Representatives and People's Consultative Assembly (DPR/MPR) Building Installation Management Bureau played down the importance of fireproof data storage.

Aris said no special measures had been taken to protect the documents.

"We already have sprinklers to protect our paper documents," he said.

Citing that most of the House and Assembly buildings were new, Aris said the management relied upon the installed fire protection system, and was confident that the fire equipment would work in the event of a blaze.

"In addition, there are no confidential documents here as everything is supposed to be open to the public," said Aris, adding that the main tasks of the House and Assembly members was to represent the people.

Meanwhile, Aris' colleague in the Management Maintenance Bureau revealed that his bureau had allocated funds this year to improve the fire protection system and fire equipment.

"But, the funds have not yet been disbursed," said Sartono.

Sartono acknowledged that building managers had received a warning last year from the Jakarta Fire Department urging them to regularly check their fire equipment.

Separately, Fire Chief Johnny Pangaribuan revealed that his department had warned the managers of government buildings to protect their data with proper fire protection systems.

"But, they continue to use budget constraints as an excuse to avoid improving their fire protection systems and safety equipment," said Johnny, taking the management of the House and Assembly buildings as an example.

Johnny said there were nearly 200 state buildings that failed to provide proper protection for data.

He said government buildings were the worst for fire protection compared to buildings managed by private sector firms.

"Companies in the private sector have more money, relatively speaking, to finance improvements than government departments, which first must allocate the funds in their budgets," said Johnny.

State documents, especially confidential ones, are among the items that must be stored using special safety precautions, such as in fireproof rooms or cabinets.