The Barbados Fire Service (BFS) headquarters and the Emergency Ambulance Service (EAS) are expected to come together under one roof when the BFS’ complex is constructed at Pine Road, St. Michael, “in the very near future”.
Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs, Wilfred Abrahams, made this announcement as he addressed the closing ceremony for the Barbados Fire Academy Auxiliary Fire Officers’ Recruit Course #39, at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology (SJPI), today.
Mr. Abrahams said the new complex will house the Bridgetown Fire Station, the Barbados Fire Prevention and Code Enforcement Unit, the administration division of the BFS, and the Emergency Ambulance Service.
“It is anticipated that this would provide the framework for a closer collaboration and working relationship between the Emergency Ambulance Service and the Barbados Fire Service.
“It therefore makes strategic sense to have these two entities housed together and working together,” he said.
Mr. Abrahams explained that such an arrangement would benefit the personnel of the service and the public of Barbados as it provided an opportunity for a greater range of training and acquisition of skills, shorter response times for medical and trauma calls, and routine drive responses to assist the public.
He further disclosed that the move would also allow for the sharing of resources, such as a central dispatch centre, which is now under discussion, and maintenance and workshop facilities.
“These provisions can only translate to a better and more efficient service to the public, and less cost to the tax payers of Barbados. This is where the Barbados Fire Service is heading, and initiatives aimed at honing the skills of the first responders,” the Minister pointed out.
Commending the 16 fire recruits who successfully completed the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) programme as a part of their training, Mr. Abrahams stated that the attempt to augment the department’s EMT skill set also signalled the deliberate attempt to assist the provision of prehospital care in Barbados.
“The Fire Service is one of our main first responders and this initiative falls within your natural operations. It is already well known that the service has the lead in search and rescue, as well as a number of hazardous material incidents. This means that modern recruits must be multi-skilled and must be equipped to perform effectively and completely from the very beginning,” he said.
He added that in a modern fire service it could not be business as usual, as the focus could no longer be solely on preventing and extinguishing fires.
Mr. Abrahams said to meet this need, the Ministry is presently conducting a complete and comprehensive overhaul of the Fire Service Act, which has served its purpose since its enactment in 1961.
“The proposed overhaul is intended to allow the Barbados Fire Service to evolve into a comprehensive fire management and rescue operation, which can deliver a modern fire and rescue service that will respond to the demands of the 21st century,” he noted.
The Minister said in so doing, it is also placing a heavy emphasis on training, not only for staff, but also for other professionals in the industry and the general public, both locally and regionally.
Mr. Abrahams added that there was an arrangement with the Barbados Community College and the BFS to allow trainees to pay a small fee to the college when pursuing certain courses, for which they will receive certificates and college credits on successful completion.
Meanwhile, the BFS is in the preliminary planning stage with the SJPI to establish capacity to assist with the training of seafarers. This initiative, once completed, would allow for the certification of local instructors to meet international maritime organisational standards.
During his address, the Minister also welcomed the new fire officers, noting that they were embarking on a new journey from today. He also gave the BFS his commitment that he would do all that was necessary to assist it in ensuring that future programmes produced officers of a similar quality as those from Course #39.