Jamaica Fire Brigade Steps Up Its Safety Drive


As part of activities to mark Fire Safety Awareness Week, which begins on October 26, the Jamaica Fire Brigade will be intensifying its efforts to sensitise those communities that are more prone to incidents of fire, about the need to be alert and to observe safety measures.
Statistics have revealed that between 1997 and 2002 there were 146 deaths caused by fire, with 52 of that number being children. For the similar period there were 334 fire-related injuries. In 2002, 13 children perished in fires.
Since the beginning of this year 16 persons including eight children have died as a result of fires. Assistant Commissioner and Chief Fire Prevention Officer at the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Lynden Mattocks tells JIS News that most of the deaths resulting from fires, occurred in the depressed areas of Kingston and St. Andrew,St. Catherine and Westmoreland. These areas, he said, were considered high risk as the more developed parishes had ongoing economic activities, resulting in unplanned settlements, unattended children and more opportunities for fires to break out. “We are planning to go out there in the depressed areas to talk to the families (about fire prevention measures), most of our activities will definitely be in the Corporate Area,” Assistant Commissioner Mattocks states.
He explains that most fires are caused by simple mistakes and could have been avoided, mentioning that these incidents often occur in the inner city, and are often caused by electrical short circuit, which stems from improper and illegal connection to power lines. Overloading is also another contributing factor. He notes that during Christmas there is always an increase in the number of electrical fires as persons get caught up with Christmas decorations that require more power.
Fire Safety Awareness Week will be observed under the theme ‘Awareness is the key for a fire safe community’. The week is observed in October each year and is intended to highlight the threat of fire to life and property and to educate the public on safety measures to minimize the outbreak of fires.The week will commence with a national church service at the Power of Faith Ministries Miracle Cathedral in Portmore on Sunday, October 26, at10:45 a.m.Similar services are to be organised in Port Maria, at the Emmanuel Baptist Church and the Holiness Born Again Church of Christ Apostolic, West Green Montego Bay, commencing at 10:00 a.m.
The main event for this year’s fire safety campaign will be an exhibition at the Kingston and St. Andrew Parish Library on Tom Redcam Drive. It will highlight the work of the Fire Brigade in Jamaica from its inception to present.
There will be an audio visual section complete with a computer display, a mock communication centre, brochures about the brigade with safety tips, photo and equipment displays of the brigade – past and present – as well as equipment unique to its operations.
In addition there will be a display that shows the relationship between the various emergency response agencies and the Jamaica Fire Brigade. These include the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), the Jamaica Constabulary Force/Jamaica Defence Force, the Jamaica Public Service Company and the National Water Commission.The electronic and print media are expected to play a crucial role in this year’s public education programme. “For the first time we are asking the cinema’s and about 30 of the cable providers to put in clips. to sensitise people, we are even revisiting our hand-outs to make them more attractive,” says Mr. Mattocks.
Preparatory, primary and high school students, adult library users, and the general public are being invited to view demonstrations, exhibitions, listen to lectures and be issued with fire safety brochures. In particular, the Brigade has focused its attention on children from the preparatory level upwards with the hope that they can influence the older generation and help make future communities fire safe. “We are making sure that those coming up are more safety conscious,” Assistant Commissioner Mattocks explains.He says the Brigade will be going into communities this year to meet with the residents to deliver its message.
However, members of the public will still be able to participate in the activities at the stations in their communities. Lectures, demonstrations and drills will be staged across the island. The Assistant Commissioner says the public has been receptive, but adds that it was more difficult to reach the adults.
Mr. Mattocks, stating that Jamaicans are not safety conscious, insists that most fires, which have occurred, could have been avoided.
The senior fire officer bemoans the number of children who are being left at home alone and later become fire victims. “I always say a match in the hand of a child is like a loaded gun, it can create so much pain, death and suffering,” he declares.Mr. Mattocks made an appeal to Jamaican parents, urging them to “take care of your young ones, I think it is a crime to leave children alone at home. To a child, fire is very attractive, and they will play with matches, they will play with these dangerous things.”Mentioning that the safety campaign had achieved some degree of success, the Assistant Commissioner says that this was due to the fact that the week of activities were complemented by various efforts that took place within different communities during the year.”We have been going to schools in the inner city continuously, Fire Safety Awareness Week is where we invite them to come to us,” he explains, adding that there were Christmas treats, and a homework assistance programme in the Rollington Town and Trench Town communities.
The Fire Service in Jamaica was established in October 1871 with the formation of the Kingston Fire Brigade, to satisfy the need for a trained and equipped fire service to be responsive to growth in housing, industrial and commercial developments in Kingston; following a spate of large fires which had ravaged sections of the city’s commercial sectors.
At the time 13 other fire brigades had been established for rural parishes. This was not ideal, so in order to achieve greater cost effectiveness, more efficient fire coverage, greater command and control, among other things, the fragmented brigades were re-organised, unified and made accountable to a central command.
Steps to unify the brigades were finally taken in October of 1988 with the passing of the Fire Brigade Act, which repealed the Kingston and St. Andrew Fire Brigade Act and the Parochial Fire Brigade Act “…. and established in and for (all) Jamaica a national Fire Service (thereafter) to be called the Jamaica Fire Brigade…”
Fire Safety Awareness Week, will culminate with a ball at the Starfish Hotel Trelawny, on Saturday, November 1.

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