The alert, posted on the DDPM-Phuket website this morning (Sept 8), detailed the procedure that DDPM officers are to take if heavy forest fire haze, usually from mass burn-offs in neighbouring countries, descends over Phuket.
Standard procedures have been in place since heavy haze from mass burn-offs on Sumatra, southwest of Phuket, in October 2015 blanketed Phuket with what officials confirmed was Phuket’s “worst haze ever”. (See story here.)
“The alert was posted under an order issued by the Ministry of interior,” DDPM-Phuket Chief Prapan explained to The Phuket News.
“We knew this alert was coming. It only calls for DDPM officers to be prepared in case heavy haze affects areas across Southern Thailand,” he said.
The alert, issued and signed by Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda, is dated Sept 4 and orders DDPM officials across Southern Thailand to be on alert for heavy haze.
The order specifically identifies the Andaman provinces of Phuket, Phang Nga, Krabi, Rarong, Trang and Satun as areas where officers are to be ready for heavy haze.
It also calls for officers in the southern provinces of Surat Thani, Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Phatthalung, Songkhla, Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala to be on alert.
The order was issued following the national DDPM headquarters in Bangkok receiving a report confirming that 200 fire spots on Sumatra and on Borneo were ablaze and the ensuing smoke was causing haze.
Countries already affected by haze were Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore, said the report.
Disaster officials in Thailand were already on alert throughout August and were ordered to remain on alert throughout September, noted the Ministry of Interior order.
Specifically, the order called for DDPM officials to respond to heavy haze by performing the following:
- Inform people about haze situation in their areas and advise them on how to protect themselves from smoke inhalation.
- Encourage people to not contribute to the problem by not burning off garbage at their homes and to encourage people to recycle their waste.
- Contact the provincial public health offices and local administration offices to hand out masks to people.
- Identify locations for temporary shelters where people susceptible to the effects of smoke inhalation will not be exposed to heavy haze. Arrange for local water truck services with high-pressure hoses to be able to be deployed to areas to reduce haze by spraying water.
- Follow the standard situation management plan. If the situation becomes more severe, contact DDPM superior officers in Bangkok.
“Of course we will follow the actions as ordered in the alert,” Mr Prapan told The Phuket News.
“Being prepared is the only way to mitigate consequences in such situations,” he added.