It has been a tragic October for almost 40 Barbadians.
That’s the number of people who lost their homes and possessions to fire.
This weekend was particularly tough.
In St John, 10 residents at Haven, White Hall of Massiah Street were left homeless after a fire destroyed their residence. No one was home at the time of the blaze.
Hours later, the unwanted visitor struck at the Silver Hill Landing Scheme, in Christ Church. This time, two houses were destroyed and a third extensively damaged.
A total of 19 persons were affected.
Thankfully, all lives were spared but all the houses were uninsured.
A house fire is a nightmare, losses devastating and risk to life is very real.
And though we have all seen it time and time again, we tend to assume it’s something that happens to other people.
The reality is, these disasters are occurring more and more and everyone must take all the necessary precautions to prevent fire while having a sure plan in place in case your home comes under threat.
According to data from the Barbados Fire Service, there have been more house fires this month than during the same period last year.
Fire Officer Andrew Taylor reported yesterday there were five house fires, compared to three for the same month last year.
Taylor added that the Fire Service responded to 59 house fires up to October this year compared to 60 in 2017.
Yesterday, Fire Chief Errol Maynard told Barbados TODAY he would make a more detailed statement on the troubling issue possibly by Thursday.
One glance at these numbers and it’s clear that we cannot ignore the possibility of disaster striking. And while our firefighters are at the top of their game, they can’t protect us against ourselves.
Therefore, it best to be prepared.
On Monday, Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson mooted the idea that the time has perhaps come for the introduction of mandatory home insurance for Barbados.
“We want to urge Barbadians to please insure their homes. One of the commitments of the Government of which I am a part of is to try to facilitate this. This is something that Governments over the last 40 years have been trying to address. How do we get compulsory home insurance and it has defeated all previous governments.”
“Even though you might think that risk of fire to your property or home may be small, it is still a risk and we urge those who can, to insure their properties, because your whole life acquisitions can go up in flames,” Hinkson warned
A reasonable call indeed.
It should be expected that the mandatory call for insurance will provoke much debate. There are critical issues about the cost of insurance that Government and insurers will have to discuss, especially for the most vulnerable. The discussion then, will no doubt have to widen to include building standards and that is a conversation long overdue.
What we cannot do is discount the issue, since more and more families are finding themselves at the mercy of Government charities and goodly neighbours, given the high costs attached to repairs and rebuilding long after the embers have died.
So let the conversation be had.
But in the meantime, Barbadians must pay closer attention to fire safety.
Heeding some basic precautions makes good common sense.
Homeowners can start by replacing or repairing damaged or loose electrical cords. Stop overloading circuits or outlets. Don’t leave the stove unattended. Put away matches and lighters from children. Use candles with caution. Invest in a smoke detector and a fire extinguisher.
Be smart and keep fire at bay.