A number of fire officers lack basic entry level certification and many stations do not have the appropriate equipment that officers need to tackle some of the more dangerous blazes, it was revealed today.
Chairman of the Barbados Fire Service Association (BFSA) Corrie Bridgeman told the association’s annual general meeting at Solidarity House, Harmony Hall more than half of the officers lacked certification in Fire Fighting 1 and 11, limiting their ability to fight fires in high rise buildings.
“As you are well aware, more and more high rise buildings are being constructed which poses a new challenge for our members. There are major differences between high rise fire-fighting and that to which we are accustomed. In order to effectively and professionally perform and function in carrying out our duties we must be more pro-active than reactive. In essence, it is critical that fire fighters receive training in fighting fires in high rise buildings, however it is not forthcoming,” Bridgeman told the audience, which included Chief Fire Officer Errol Maynard.
Equally disconcerting, Bridgeman said, were the number of firefighters who lacked proper training in handling flooding and swift water emergencies and the lack of proper equipment needed for rescuing people from contaminated waters.
Bridgeman also painted a picture of officers being forced to put their lives at risk on too many occasions because they were being called on to put out major fires without the proper protective gear.
“As an association we cannot sit by and continue to allow our members to respond to structural fires and go into burning buildings without the appropriate or personal protective equipment – firefighting gear/clothes, rescue tools, breathing apparatus sets with a personal alert safety system and a portable radio set to effectively communicate with each other and with the incident commander on the outside. We believe it is time that we look out for the safety of our members so that they can effectively perform their duties with the necessary tools, skills and equipment without jeopardizing and compromising their safety as a result of negligence,” the BFSA chairman said.
Fewer than 15 of the approximately 240 fire officers turned up for the 10 a.m. start of the meeting and heard Bridgeman complain of officers being asked to provide fire coverage and protection at special events and having to wait up to a year for payment, and of leaking roofs at three of the fire stations, including the airport, and pests taking over stations.
“The numerous maintenance problems at the airport fire station are still to be addressed by the Grantley Adams International Airport authorities or the Fire Department. There is still the issue where stations are in dire need of industrial cleaning on a quarterly basis and more measures taken to deal with the unwanted pests, mosquitoes and even bugs that are now frequenting stations. Old items and fixtures need to be removed from the stations where they accumulate cobweb and dust,” he said.