Simpson-Miller Wants More Protection For Children


Minister of Local Government, Community Development and Sport, Portia Simpson-Miller, wants greater protection for children from fires, including putting legislation in place to deal with guardians who left them unsupervised.
Citing statistics, she said that over the period 1997 to 2002, there were 146 deaths caused by fire and of that number, 52 were children. Eight children have died in fires since the start of the year. “We have to take action now; children are far too often the innocent victims of fires in the home,” the Minister declared.She was speaking at the opening of an exhibition mounted by the Jamaica Fire Brigade at the Kingston and St. Andrew Parish Library on Tom Redcam Avenue in recognition of Fire Safety Week. The week is being observed from October 26 to November 1 and aims to, among other things, highlight the threat of fire to life and property and educate the public on safety measures they can adopt in order to minimize outbreaks. The Minister stated that much of the devastation and human suffering caused by fires could be avoided if persons were more informed and safety conscious. “The death and destruction are really not worth it. I am particularly interested in ensuring that communities learn how to protect the children, senior citizens and persons with disabilities,” she pointed out. She emphasized that all children should be taught basic rules such as, not to play with matches or what to do if their clothing caught fire. She pointed out that the effort to educate must begin in the schools, homes and in the communities.
The Minister also commended the Brigade for their efforts to educate persons in high-risk communities about the proper handling of flammable material and the dangers of certain practices, such as making illegal electrical connections.
Turning to measures to improve the effectiveness of the fire service, the Minister mentioned plans to upgrade fire stations and provide necessary equipment for firefighters.
The exhibit, which is broad-based, portrays firefighting activities in Jamaica from the inception of the Brigade to the present. There is also an audiovisual section complete with a computer display, a mock communication centre, brochures with safety tips and past and present firefighting equipment.Preparatory, primary and high school students, adult library users and the general public are being invited to view the displays and attend other demonstrations and lectures that will be held across the island throughout the week. Lynden Mattocks, Assistant Commissioner and Chief Fire Prevention Officer, said that efforts were being concentrated on moving away from the station compounds and into the wider community to teach the message of fire safety.
Assistant Superintendent of the Fire Prevention Division, Floyd McLean in an interview with JIS News, said particular attention was being paid to inner city communities like Seaview Gardens, Majesty Gardens, Rema and Denham Town, since they are the main incident areas. He said most of the fires resulted from “careless” behaviours as well as illegal electricity connections. He expressed the hope that by education and amounting the exhibits, the incidents of fires would lessen in these communities.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Delroy Brown, said it was important for all Jamaicans to be fire conscious, noting the dangers of illegal electrical connections and leaving children alone with lighted candles and kerosene lamps. “Let us acquaint ourselves with the measures that are necessary to ensure that we maintain an environment free and safe from fire,” he stated.
Director General of the Jamaica Library Service, Patricia Roberts in her remarks, commended the efforts of the Jamaica Fire Brigade to reach the public. She said the role played by them was a pivotal one although often not acknowledged until there was a disaster. She also lauded them for mounting the display, noting that it was a prime way of making the public more aware of the work of the Brigade.
The fire service in Jamaica was established in October 1871 with the formation of the Kingston Fire Brigade, and has a mandate 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 ravaged sections of the city’s commercial sectors.
Fire Safety Awareness Week, will culminate with a ball at the Starfish Hotel Trelawny, on Saturday, November 1.

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