(Stock Photo)

Christmas Message by Chief Fire Officer (Ag) Henderson Patrick – Building a Firewall of Safety through Collaboration.

This is not just to populate a Christmas list but to forge a perennial lifestyle.  This is not a desperate call to a quick fix, but a clarion call to decisive sustainable action which establishes principles on which a new culture is born. Safety is one of the critical elements of the ideology on which the Barbados Fire Service is built.  It is also a key ingredient which informs incident response and public welfare.

The members of the Service understand this, and seek at every juncture to accomplish this organizational objective, sometimes having to go above and beyond the call of duty to meet a target.

In this context, I take the opportunity to salute the hardworking men and women of the Barbados Fire Service and to thank them for their sacrifice, commitment to service and their relentless pursuit of standards geared at providing the safest possible environment for those who live, work, invest and visit this country.

They have been able to accomplish much. However, as the Service moves forward it will have to craft a new strategic intent, consistent with the dynamic global environment in which our industry now operates.

To remain relevant and responsive to increasing public demands and to keep the cutting edge with emerging industries, technologies and the unpredictable challenges of global warming, the Service will have to do more than rely on its own core competencies and acquired capacities to fulfill this new mandate.

The new mandate is calling for the Fire Service to collaborate with all stakeholder in building a “Firewall” of protection and safety around us to safeguard our investments, our lives, our families and the property which many of us have spent a lifetime working to acquire.

Traditionally, a “Firewall” is known as a component or set of components that restrict access between a protected network, and the Internet, or between other sets of networks.

It is the mission of the Barbados Fire Service in the third decade of the 21st century and beyond, but starting now, to work with its stakeholders to collaboratively build a “Firewall” architecture that will develop a safety consciousness and culture amongst all the citizens and sectors in this country.

Within the firefighting industry “Firewalls” are typically non-load-bearing, two-hour fire-rated wall assemblies that run continuously from the foundation of a structure to the underside of the roof junction or continue through the roof to form a parapet.

The Barbados Fire Service is encouraging Barbadians to develop a culture of safety. (Stock Photo)

The intent is to focus on more than just structural integrity but to promote recognition and build a Firewall of safety, defence and resilience against the common threats to life and personal loss.

The Christmas season is an appropriate time to begin this process of building.  Just like anything else, however, before the building process commences, there must be evaluation of the hazards to which you may be personally exposed. 

These may include fire resulting from naked flames in the kitchen, lighted candles for therapeutic or ambience enrichment purposes or from electrical mishaps through circuit overloads or accidents from defective appliances.

You cannot ignore the barbecues, the grilling, the bon-fires, the lighted Christmas trees or the indiscriminate burning of household refuse as part of your waste management strategy.

While most of these activities may be legitimate and have the potential for fostering good social relations, they can also cause social dislocation, affect the health and welfare of others, create a nuisance for neighbours and retard the progress made in alleviating poverty. 

By now, you should realize that the building of a Firewall or a culture of safety to preserve the sanctity of life and reduce the potential exposure to hardship is not just a function of the Fire Service, but can only be achieved with the active participation and the conscious determined efforts of every citizen of Barbados.

The members of the Fire Service from among the operational arm, the Fire Prevention and Code Enforcement Unit, the Fire Academy and the Fleet Management Unit have all contributed to ensuring that there were significant reductions in all major categories of incidents when compared to the same period last year. 

The table below gives a statistical representation, or the responses made in the identified categories.

Incident 2018 2019 Increase/Reduction
Private Dwelling House 72 58 20 % Reduction
Commercial Building 26 13 50 % Reduction
Grass 1074 959 11 % Reduction
Electrical 57 47 18 % Reduction
Rubbish 440 415 6 % Reduction
Other Structural 38 27 29 % Reduction
Motor Vehicle 64 56 13 % Reduction
Good Intent (False Alarm) 158 103 35 % Reduction
Malicious (False Alarm) 79 69 13 % Reduction
Activated Device (False Alarm) 75 115 53 % Increase
TOTAL OVERALL RESPONSES 2513 2283  

While the Fire Service has recorded these statistics, it cannot pat itself on the back and take all of the credit for what has transpired throughout this year.  Instead, it has to commend the citizens for not only listening, but for actively participating in this reduction of incidents.

The one area of concern is with the activated fire alarms, which result in most cases from lack of maintenance or defects.  The building of this Firewall speaks to maintenance and sustainability of the good standards and principles of fire safety which were adopted and practised throughout the year. We want to do even better in the coming year.

This is not the time to become comfortable and rest on your laurels, but to continue to actively engage in building this Firewall with us in a manner like those who responded to Nehemiah’s call to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem when they were destroyed through lack of citizens’ watchfulness and responsiveness. 

In the end, they were able to build a wall of protection and resilience which served beyond their present generation.  This should be our goal as well, but it cannot be accomplished with singular effort.  There must be a collaborative, purposeful, action-oriented but strategic approach to attaining this ideal.

While we contemplate the necessary action for the present, it is mine to wish not only all of the members of the Barbados Fire Service but also all of the citizens, residents and visitors to our shores, a very blessed, enjoyable and safe Christmas holiday season.

May the peace of God and the peacefulness of the season form a wall around each and every one of you.

Barbados Fire Service

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