Acting Chief Fire Officer Henderson Patrick has raised concern about the number of fires recorded this year and has urged Barbadians to adhere to strong fire prevention measures.
Below if the full text of the message
Fellow citizens and visitors to Barbados, the Christmas season is traditionally a time for happiness, joy and celebration. It is a time too when everyone is urged to be more watchful as the hustle and bustle of the season lend to complacency and compromise. These factors lead to carelessness and accidents which impact safety and health which, in some cases, require an intervention from the Fire Service.
Like most organizations and individuals in Barbados, the Fire Service was faced with challenges which required some reorganizing and remodelling of its operations and approaches. However, it continues to be committed and dedicated to duty and exemplary customer service.
The efforts of the Service during the year at maintaining fire safety and prevention awareness have been relentless. Community outreach and commercial business engagement were steadfast, yet this has not translated into the reduction in fire calls among the major categories of fires for the year so far. As seen in the table below, with the major categories of fires over the last three years, more has to be done by all citizens to ensure that this tide of fires is stemmed.
Citizens should be especially cautious during the Christmas holidays and it is customary for people to celebrate the spirit of the season with friends and loved ones by having events which entail consuming alcoholic beverages, cooking, baking and decorating – all of which have the propensity to increase risk and hence exposure to fire and other life impacting accidents.
The Barbados Fire Service is cognizant of this reality and takes the opportunity at this yuletide season to remind you to take the necessary precautions to avoid the occurrence of disaster by fire or any other debilitating accident.
The kitchen is a common room in the home for fires, especially electrical, because of the number of appliances located there. It is also an area which poses some of the greatest dangers to young children, in the way of hot burners, scalding water and electric shock. The most cooking equipment fires start with the ignition of common household items e.g. food or grease, paper or plastic bags, curtains, etc. The following recommended fire prevention measures will assist in you in the prevention of fires during the 2018 Christmas Season.
- Never leave cooking food on the stove top unattended and keep a close eye on food cooking inside the oven. A flame can ignite in just seconds.
- Keep cooking areas clean and clear of combustibles e.g. pot holders, towels, rags, drapes and food packaging.
- Turn pot handles inward so they can’t be bumped and children can’t grab them. Should a fire start, the flame will be confined to the stove area. This precaution will also deter a child from grabbing the handle and spilling its contents, possibly resulting in a serious burn.
- Wear short, close fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire.
- For those people who will be using compressed gases such as butane to fuel their fires, be extra careful. If the canisters in which these gases are contained are abused, they can react violently and even explode causing serious harm to life and damage to property.
It is a sad reality that this time of the year which brings us the most joy is also often accompanied by tragedy. Too often we become so caught up in the excitement of the holidays that we neglect to practise the most basic fire safety. By simply following the preventive measures outlined below, you and your family can enjoy all the Christmas festivities without having them marred by suffering or disaster.
- Inspect Christmas lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up.
- Select decorative lights that have been checked for safety by a nationally recognized testing agency such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM).
- Children are fascinated with Christmas trees. Keep a watchful eye on them when around the tree and do not let them play with the wiring or lights.
- Do not leave Christmas lights on when going to bed at night or leaving home.
During this season, do not neglect the elderly and physically challenged people who live alone and are susceptible to fire at any time. I urge family members and persons who reside within close proximity, to be vigilant and assist them whenever and wherever possible. Some of these are our nation builders and we must take special care of them and also be our brother’s keeper.
In many of our older homes, the capacity of the wiring system has not kept pace with today’s modern appliances and therefore it is recommended that owners of such properties seek advice from a qualified electrician. Electrical circuits are designed to accommodate only a certain amount of electricity. If you connect appliances to an overloaded circuit, you have all the makings for a real fire hazard. Avoid running extension cords across doorways or under carpets. Consider plugging only one high wattage appliance into each receptacle outlet at a time. If outlets or switches feel warm, shut off the circuit and have them checked by an electrician.
Avoid using candles. If you do use them, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down and never leave the house with candles burning. Keep candles away from decorations and other combustible materials and do not use candles to decorate Christmas trees. Do not use a candle when searching for items in a confined space. Never use a candle for a light when checking pilot light or fuelling equipment such as a kerosene lantern. The flame may ignite the fumes.
For those people who smoke, it is dangerous to smoke in bed when drowsy, medicated or intoxicated as this could lead to falling asleep with a lighted cigarette. Use large, deep, non-tip ashtrays to prevent ashes from spilling onto furniture and check them frequently. Do not rest ashtrays on sofas or chairs. Never underestimate your child’s curiosity about fire, or their ability to strike matches or start a lighter.
Liquefied Petroleum Gas is commonly used in most households today. If at any time you smell a strong odour of gas, leave the area immediately and call the fire department from outside the home. Make sure to have the hose or gas line connected to your stove checked periodically for leaks to prevent the occurrence of fire. LPG bottles should not be stored in cupboards.
In conclusion, I therefore urge you to take a moment to read the above mentioned safety hints and do not invite disaster into your Christmas celebrations.
On the behalf of the members of the Barbados Fire Service, I wish you and your families a safe and fire-free holiday season, good health and God’s richest blessings.