Fire fight

by Kimberley Cummins

barbadosmuseumAlmost three years after the deadly Campuz Trendz fire took the lives of six young women, fire officials are still very concerned about buildings situated in the Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison.

With more than 100 businesses located in this area, Station Officer with responsibility for fire prevention in the Barbados Fire Service, Neal Smithwick, said in an interview with Barbados TODAY, they were particularly concerned with the lack of effective fire protection systems in them especially those located in older buildings.

In a case where the Barbados Museum, for example, did not have an†effective fire protection system and there were to be a fire he said, it was highly unlikely that the more than 500 artefacts stored there were replaceable, so he urged businesses to protect themselves against any such eventualities.

Neal Smithwick
Neal Smithwick

Smithwick further said that since the Safety and Health at Work Act was proclaimed earlier this year, the service saw more businesses begin to put measures in place to protect themselves, staff and property.

That legislation makes it mandatory for businesses to have the appropriate certification and gave the fire service a broader scope to inspect facilities.

Also a serious worry for the fire officers were homes located in the City.

These homes could cause serious hazards, not only because of the proximity to each other but also the lack of fire prevention devices and education on how to properly use such devices, he said. However the department was making an effort to educate them by conducting the Fighting Fire With Fire Protection programme which started with the New Orleans area.

“The programme allowed us to go into the area and conduct a house to house survey, we were able to identify particular hazards and then were able to contribute fire protection equipment: smoke alarms, extinguishers, etc. The other component of that programme was training, we wanted to develop community groups where we train them in fire fighting, just in case something happens they know exactly how to operate†an extinguisher so that by the time the fire service is called if there is a fire it can be controlled at the beginning stage.

“The major hazards we found were†that primarily the houses are wooden structures, some badly in need of repair. You have senior citizens who live alone, some of them were amputees and were taking care of themselves, none of the houses had smoke alarms or any alerting devices or any fire protections – not even a garden hose to help with a fire and some people in the area still used kerosene lamps,” he said.

The fire officer of 32 years also said, that they also instituted a programme designed specially for businesses called Operation Escape Bridgetown where they had discussions with about 43 businesses in the Bridgetown area,† did assessments and training.

The feedback received from these programmes, he said, have been encouraging and vowed that they would continue with their fire prevention and protection measures.

Other programmes they had were: the Risk Watch Project for children in day care centres, a programme for Brownies and Cub Scouts dealing with fire safety training as well as conducting evacuation drills with various companies.††

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