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JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) is urging householders to have their wiring checked before they put up these lights in order to prevent fires.
  • There has been an increase in structural fires over the last few years due to faulty wiring.
  • Where a house has been wired for over five years a licensed electrician should come in and do a full check of the electrical infrastructure every year.

As Jamaicans adorn their homes with decorative lights and other electrical ornaments for the Christmas, the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) is urging householders to have their wiring checked before they put up these lights in order to prevent fires.

Assistant Superintendent in charge of communication at the JFB, Emilio Ebanks, says that there has been an increase in structural fires over the last few years due to faulty wiring.

“For 2010 we had 1,000 structural fires. These are really building fires and a large percentage of them are homes. In 2011, we had 1, 381 and in 2012 we had 1, 508.  What this is saying to us when we put them into context is that about 70 per cent of those are actually electrical-based fires,” he tells JIS News.

Mr. Ebanks says that the number of electrical fires is a “huge concern” for the JFB especially when 50 to 60 per cent of these could have been avoided had persons taken the necessary precautions, which include using a licensed electrician to do the wiring in the house or to periodically check them.

He says that where a house has been wired for over five years a licensed electrician should come in and do a full check of the electrical infrastructure every year.

Mr. Ebanks warns against using “a little man down the road” and for persons to instead, seek the services of someone, who is “properly trained and tested,” or is a member of the Jamaica Licensed Electrical Association (JLEA).

With the increased demand for Christmas, he is imploring householders to get a licensed and certified electrician and “have that person check to ensure that your property is safe and that it can manage whatever load you are now putting on to the system.”

He is also advising persons to check the decorative lights they have stored away before using them. “You need to check that the wires are not chafed in any way because where the negative and the positive meet you have a greater chance of a fire starting,” he tells JIS news.

He also cautioned against the “stacking” of decorative lights, noting that this is a dangerous practice.

“What persons don’t realize is [they’re] plugging into one socket, what ideally was made to accommodate two appliances.  Don’t plug more than three. When you join three, four, five or six lights you are overloading the circuit, which can lead to overheating of the circuit and eventually a fire,” he points out.

Director of the JLEA for the Kingston region, Ewart Foster, tells JIS News that the association has a critical role to play in maintaining standards in the industry.

“Our mandate is to update and maintain the standard of electrical installation in Jamaica. Where the public is concerned, we will ensure that all their electrical work is done to the government standard and with good workmanship, so they can have safe electrical work that will not pose any danger or hazard to families or property,” he states.

Mr. Foster tells JIS News that there are four regions covering the island –, Kingston, Mandeville, St. Ann’s Bay/Ocho Rios, and Montego Bay.

Licensed electricians, he says, are already working closely with the Rural Electrification Programme (REP) and with the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) in providing safe services to the public.

“A large number of our members work as small contractors with the REP and are doing good work, which is examined and passed by the Government Electrical Inspectorate,” he tells JIS News.

Like Mr. Ebanks, he is urging caution for the Christmas season. He stresses care when using lights and electricity on the outside. He says that great care should be taken to ensure that electrical plugs used outdoors are the correct type, that they are properly protected, and that the wiring sequence is done y by a licensed professional electrical installer.

This is important, Mr. Foster says, as in the event of rain, improperly mounted external plugs could get submerged and cause electrocution to innocent persons walking in the water.