Often seen on board their bright red fire engines, racing to scenes of fire or other emergency, the country’s firefighters continue to provide yeoman service to the people of Jamaica.
The proud and committed men and women of the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB), are among the country’s first responders to emergency situations and they commit to their duties unflinchingly.
During and following the recent passage of Hurricane Sandy, the JFB personnel responded to over 176 emergency calls.
Assistant Commissioner of the JFB, Samuel McIntosh, says it is customary for the brigade to respond to numerous calls for assistance following the passage of a hurricane or other disaster.
The calls, he tells JIS News, “fell into several categories including fire calls, fallen trees impeding roadways and on houses, people trapped by rising water, evacuations, collapsed houses, collapsed walls on houses, and fallen trees on motor vehicles”.
The firefighters also received reports of broken electrical wires and utility poles, which were referred to the Jamaica Public Service (JPS).
Assistant Commissioner McIntosh, who is Chief Fire Prevention Officer, tells JIS News that all cases had positive outcomes. Where there were fires, he informs, these were extinguished and chainsaws and axes were used to cut and clear away fallen trees blocking roadways or on houses. Persons trapped by rising waters were rescued and in the case of evacuations, persons were assisted to safety by JFB crew.
“Where there were instances of collapsed houses or walls collapsing on houses, our team had to cut our way through, check to ensure the safety of the occupants and the surroundings. If there are persons in those dwellings, we’d have to plan a strategy to evacuate those trapped and as a team execute that strategy,” he informs.
No sooner had Hurricane Sandy passed that the services of the brigade were again called upon to respond to major flooding in Port Maria, St. Mary. This time, there was no need for heavy equipment, but the firefighters assisted in providing relief for persons, who were marooned.
The firefighters also respond to medical emergencies and road crashes where they use the “jaws of life” to free victims trapped in vehicles, remove oil slick from roadways following a crash, or attend to chemical spillages.
They can also be seen going into schools, and attending youth clubs and community meetings, to conduct talks on fire safety.
The JFB has also taken a novel and proactive approach in executing its fire prevention mandate, and has engaged in the training of residents as fire wardensunder its Community Safety Programme.
Well over 1,000 persons have received training as community fire wardens since the implementation of the programme in 2008. As part of their responsibilities these fire wardens will, as best as possible, help to protect their communities from the ravages of fires.
In early August, approximately 60 residents from three St. James communities – Flanker, Rose Heights and Farm Heights, received two months of intensive training, following which they were certified by the JFB as fire wardens.
Assistant Commissioner McIntosh, who was an integral part of the training, tells JIS News that the Community Fire Safety Programme was created specifically to facilitate the participation of community members in fire prevention strategies. This, he says, as fires continue to pose a significant threat to life and property.
“The engagement of communities is anticipated to make them watchdogs for fire prevention and ultimately, bring the annual fire statistics to a more manageable level,” he points out.
In the meantime, the brigade continues its fire prevention activities, which includes inspection of buildings to ensure compliance with fire safety standards.