ALWAYS PREPARED

Azerbaijan 2014 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Col-Gen Kamaladdin Heydarov, Minister of Emergency Situations, on being ready for anything, building safe cities, and cooperating internationally.

HE Col-Gen Kamaladdin Heydarov
BIOGRAPHY
Born in 1961, Colonel-General Kamaladdin Heydarov studied geology and international law and began his career at Caspneftegazgeofizrazvedka, a geophysical trust where he held various positions between 1978 and 1988. Having headed different public and private organizations in the period between 1988 and 1995, he was appointed as the Chairman of the State Customs Committee of the Azerbaijan Republic in 1995, receiving the rank of Colonel-General of the Customs Service on January 17, 2002. On February 6, 2006 he was appointed Minister of Emergency Situations. Kamaladdin Heydarov has been the President of the Azerbaijan Taekwondo Federation since December 27, 1999 and the President of the Azerbaijan Boxing Federation since January 23, 2009. On April 12, 2005 he was elected Vice-President of the World Taekwondo Federation.

What were the main achievements of the Ministry of Emergency Situations last year?

Considering the results of the work carried out and the measures taken in 2013, we can say with full confidence that last year was a success for the Ministry of Emergency Situations. Of course, this success has been underpinned by the socioeconomic development observed in our country in recent years thanks to the successful implementation of the policies of Heydar Aliyev by President Ilham Aliyev. In 2013, we managed to ensure a high level of preparedness, the prevention and elimination of potential emergency situations, and to improve the Ministry's material and technical infrastructure, and expand its international connections. In order to establish rigorous fire safety procedures we have conducted inspections at social, industrial, transport, communications, and agricultural facilities, and service organizations. On the basis of our findings, the managers of these properties were informed of the shortcomings discovered and allowed the opportunity to rectify them. Gas safety inspections have also been carried out at thousands of private houses and apartments, and appropriate correspondence sent to local gas suppliers urging them to take necessary steps to eliminate the faults. To provide protection from sources of ionizing radiation, we have carried out safety inspections at industrial, scientific research, and medical institutions. In addition, we exercise control over the import and export of radioactive sources. The Ministry has also continued work to ensure the compliance of construction standards with regulatory requirements and construction standards. In 2013, we also continued work to further strengthen the material and technical resources of the Ministry, construct office and auxiliary buildings, and refurbish some of the old facilities subordinated to the Ministry. Additionally, over the course of 2013, the Ministry purchased diverse machinery, including multifunctional fire trucks, rescue boats, equipment to detect and deactivate explosive objects and substances, transportation vehicles, related equipment and spare parts. Besides these initiatives, several apartment buildings have been constructed to house Ministry personnel. A major success in 2013 was the elimination in August of the open flow at the Bulla-Deniz field in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian Sea. Our personnel displayed courage and professionalism in responding to this emergency. As a result of the measures taken in an extremely challenging setting, our specialists managed to cope with this man-made disaster, salvaged the well, and have already re-commissioned it. It is particularly gratifying that not a single member of the engineering, technical, or fire-fighting crews was injured during the operation. In addition, as is well known, the government of Azerbaijan does everything in its power to safeguard its citizens regardless of their location. For example, we arranged for the emergency evacuation of our citizens in Egypt at the height of the unrest there.

Taking into consideration the extensive building activity of recent years, how does the Ministry ensure that new buildings comply with relevant safety standards?

The Ministry of Emergency Situations and the agencies under its umbrella exercise state control over all stages of construction activities, from engineering to research, design, construction, and the assembly of buildings and facilities in accordance with the applicable regulatory and legal documents. After a permit has been issued for the construction of a facility according to Article 75 of the Code on Town Planning and Construction of the Republic of Azerbaijan, we started a logbook to chart government control over the construction process. In an effort to implement the relevant orders of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, drafts of a number of regulatory documents have been prepared and submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers. Measures continue to be taken to bridge the gaps in construction laws and align them with international standards.

Baku is widely believed to be the capital of the Caspian region due its high-rise buildings, broad avenues, and business opportunities. What challenges does the vertical development of the city pose to the Ministry?

Baku is becoming one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Specific work is currently underway in accordance with the instructions of the President to develop and modernize Baku and its suburban settlements, and the city is growing more beautiful every day. A large number of multi-story blocks, road junctions, and bridges have been built and commissioned in Baku in recent years. And this process shows no sign of slowing. Considering the fact that these buildings and roads are inhabited and used by millions of people on a daily basis, one priority of the Ministry of Emergency Situations is to have sufficient search and rescue capacity. To meet this objective the State Fire Safety Service under the Ministry has further expanded its logistical supplies by purchasing cutting-edge machinery capable of operating in the least accessible locations, including the highest floors of high-rise buildings. In addition, office buildings and operational depots of the Fire Safety Service have been built in different parts of the capital. In order to promptly eliminate the potential of emergency situations in the historical parts of Baku, with its narrow streets and small neighborhoods, special vehicles have been purchased and provided to the Ministry's High Risk Rescue Service. At the same time, ministerial personnel undergo regular training at the Baku Underground and other facilities in order to improve their emergency response skills. Our motto is a quote from our National Leader Heydar Aliyev, “It is easier to prevent an emergency situation than to deal with its consequences." The subdivisions of the Ministry are engaged in extensive public awareness campaigns related to the prevention of emergency situations in Baku and other cities, districts, and even remote villages. Public meetings are arranged at health and educational facilities, and our information is available on our website and through television broadcasts.

“ We are interested in conducting academic and research exchanges with educational institutions from overseas. "

What is the Ministry doing in terms of cooperation with international institutions and the exchange of expertise?

To improve the Ministry's work in its primary fields of activity, we are constantly developing cooperation with relevant agencies of other countries, as well as international and regional organizations. We currently cooperate with organizations from over 30 countries, including NATO, the OSCE, GUAM, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Economic Cooperation Organization, the International Civil Defense Organization, Germany's Technical Cooperation Society, and various other international and regional organizations. In order to improve the professionalism of the Ministry's personnel, cooperation agreements have been signed with educational institutions from a number of countries. As part of this cooperation, employees from these groups have come to the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Republic of Azerbaijan. We are interested in conducting academic and research exchanges with educational institutions from overseas, and are working in this direction. In addition, representatives of the Ministry regularly attend various international activities and training sessions dedicated to the prevention and elimination of emergency situations. As a matter of fact, Azerbaijan has also hosted a number of regional and international conferences on this subject. One of these events was organized by the Ministry of Emergency Situations on the initiative of the International Civil Defense Organization in Gabala during mid-March 2013. The conference, entitled “On Civil Defense and the Prevention of Casualties," was attended by the representatives of over 50 countries along with several international organizations. Prior to the conference, its participants observed the Caspian-2013 tactical exercise organized by our Ministry.