My fellow Barbadians, visitors and investors in Barbados, on behalf of the members of the Barbados Fire Service, I sincerely wish you, your families and employees a happy and safe holiday season and a productive and prosperous 2015.

Safety, as you know, is the number one priority of the Barbados Fire Service and we stand committed to providing everyone with excellent customer service through efficient emergency care.

With each passing year, we remind you of the importance of adopting proper fire safety practices to ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday season, and this year is no different as we continue to urge persons to be ever mindful of the danger of fire and offer tips on how to avoid and in some cases eliminate the chance of an emergency occurring.

This year, regrettably, has seen the Fire Service being summoned to numerous emergencies, especially in the form of private dwelling house fires. In 2013, there were 80 recorded house fires, whereas for the year to date, there have been 93 recorded house fires, showing an increase of 16.25 percent.

This increase brings with it renewed concerns that the message of fire safety urgently needs to reach every alley, avenue, terrace, village, development and community across Barbados.

Therefore as a reminder, we are asking persons who are cooking or plan to cook to ensure that they are not fatigued or under the influence of any medications or any other legal or illegal substances that would impair their ability to carry out and complete their task safely.

Persons who smoke are also asked not to carry out this practice in bed and to dispose of their cigarette butts in the appropriate containers, soaking them in water if necessary.

On the matter of good housekeeping practices, you are encouraged to keep in and around your properties clean and tidy by not allowing materials such as old wood, log, grass piles, sponge or plastics to accumulate. Also, try not to let your vacant lots become overrun by grass as this practice is unsightly, unhealthy and gives fire a direct path to your home.

Those of you who live near the ocean, you are reminded to carry out frequent checks on the condition of your electrical fittings and fixtures, as the salt sprays can easily corrode the protective casings, leaving wires exposed and sometimes allowing electrical elements to touch, which could lead to a fire occurring.

This time of year normally sees an increase in the number of shoppers in and around the Bridgetown area. I am therefore encouraging store owners and managers not to overcrowd their stores during the season as no profit made can match the priceless nature of human life.

Additionally, store owners are advised not to pack or store any merchandise in the corridors of their establishments or block exits or firefighting equipment within the stores, as these actions are dangerous and are not in accordance with Part III Sections 38 and 39 of the Safety and Health at Work Act 2005, which speaks to ???provision and maintenance of means of fire warning??? and ???safety provisions in case of fire???.

I am further reminding persons that all smoke alarms should be in proper working order and that exits are clearly marked to ensure a safe evacuation of customers in case of an emergency.

My friends, it is evident that everyone does not know how to respond when an alarm goes off, therefore you are encouraged, especially those one-door establishments, to make provisions for periodic announcements on what to do if an alarm goes off.

Finally, as the festivities continue, please remember not to drink and drive, and if you must drink, have a designated driver, as the impact of a motor vehicle accident has far-reaching economic, physical and emotional consequences. The Barbados Fire Service has responded to 49 motor vehicle accidents for the year to date, with a number of these being fatal.

I am therefore urging everyone to let us return to the days of being our brothers??? keeper, looking out for each other and being considerate. Remember, everyone has a role to play in their safety and the safety of others. Let us all do our part for a safe and fire free holiday.??God bless.

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