EDITOR, The Tribune
For some time now I have been inking remarks about the state of the Bahamas Fire Brigade on New Providence Island. And I am left fascinated, whether or not, it has fallen on deaf ears. I can vividly recall the last time complaining about the number of fire trucks working – then there were seven and to date many months have passed, there are roughly three fire apparatus working...and the aerial ladder truck that had a rusted rung, or the steps to its huge ladder rusted away, but at the time was still drivable...to date, there is no operable aerial ladder truck for the country’s premier fire services.
But, we boast daily about the newly constructed Baha Mar resort on Cable Beach and its high occupancy levels...well, tell me if a fire were to breakout midsection of this, or any other resort and there were guests trapped above the seat of fire (God forbid), what method will be used to get the tourists to safety? Much like the Landfill fire, will we have to call in the authorities from the United States... to have them fly in the aerial fire trucks onboard military planes? We can and must do better. With big time investments, comes big time responsibility.
I often marvel, how the authorities will deal with the evacuation of such a hotel. And what role, if any, ought the Ministry of Public Works...and Buildings Control Unit play? Who are supposed to have on file the floor plans for all major structures within the Commonwealth of The Bahamas?
Pertinent in these schemes of things are the overall approach to Fire drills, which are a must in any modern society...equally as important, are the access by fire apparatus to water supply...thus, the need for fire lanes encompassing these types of occupancy...water supplies, be it fire hydrants, boar wells, excavated wells... and finally proper foundation to accommodate fire appliances, are key...with access to the Ocean, this inexhaustible supply of water for firefighting purposes...all of which are of the utmost importance.
There is also the question of fire exits, properly illuminated signage...stairways free at-all-times-from obstruction...panic doors, or exit doors have built in panic bars, meaning that if there were no lighting available, one would only have to crash into the metal bar crossed the centre of that door and the door would open...therefore, it is against the fire code to chain and locked these exit doors.
There was a movie called “Rich Old Asians” or something like that...that was being-shown at the theatre Mall-at-Marathon and so I went to see it...before sitting, decided to see what conditions the exit doors were in? On inspection, I observed that the one I saw was secured by this sizeable chain and locked...I then sought out the person in charge and told him that I was a retired police fire inspector and asked him if a fire were to start, how would the people get out, because the-exit- door is locked down? Don’t worry, he said, I have the keys and will take care of it? Do you know that this person still did not undo the exit door...and really, I was complaining in the strongest of terms...After the movie, and out of curiosity, I walked around the northern side of the theatre-building and the exterior of that exit door had a platform, about four feet by four feet and elevated...with three, to four steps to get to ground level...now tell me, what was wrong with this scenario, I asked myself? For starters, we are talking about hundreds of people, give or take...and in the mass-exodus fleeing the would-be-fire, or emergency, my take is that many would be trampled...many more would be prevented from entering that small space...others with broken bones, due to the-abnormal configuration…this exit was a single door...and if my memory serves me right, the exit –exterior door ought to be opened up to a large levelled outside-area...and not some elevated concrete porch-like structure...the fire code as with any regulatory code, serves a specific-purpose and if not enforced, or heeded, consequences will be dire, be they the authorities or not.
Our local fire department, even though they may not...and do not have all of the required fire apparatus, trust me when I say – and I used to work there– many of our firemen have been trained by the best in the business, names like Chief Fire Officer(CFO) John Sherman-British/USA-trained...Chief Superintendent Edney Johnson, participated in World War 2...many of the department’s sub officers attended Ocala Fire College and one officer in particular, and specifically, I am certain he would have no objections with his name being mentioned, Elvis Clark, was the top student there, studying the fire sciences. So anytime the fire officers give their views on a matter relating to “Fireman ship,” those views are based on calculated and established fireman ship principles...views in my opinion, that you can take to the bank, rest assuredly.
Moving right along in our country, the time is long past that we recognised local talents and award them accordingly. The Bible is true that a Prophet has no honour in his own country. Merits have value and people have feelings and rights to be paid a fair sum for work performed, or not performed.
I call on the Parliament of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to begin to put your money, your political-campaign-promises, and the people’s money, where your interests are… and to please compensate these/those specialists of the Royal Bahamas Police Fire Services, for this designation. Firemanship in part deals with Chemistry, Physics, Hydraulics, Electrical Engineering, First Aid, Building Construction, Molecular Science, Gases, Carbon dioxides, Elements and Compounds, Molecular Mass of a Molecule, Behaviour of Water Mass, and Pressures applied to water mass and its behaviour, etc.
There is this perception and practice …that anytime a large fire erupts, the first thing they decide to do is...oh, call the Airport Crash and Rescue and have them dispatch one of their fire engines. ‘Well, Hon. Dionisio D’Aguilar, MP Minister of Tourism, Aviation...’Do you know that it is not a wholesome-practice – and ultimately against the Airport Safety Codes, to remove any-pieces of the emergency equipment… from the confines of that space? (Must always maintain the right quota of Crash & Rescue Rigs/Fire Trucks there and for obvious reasons. Usually ,and there are hundreds of passenger Jets, and thousands of passengers travelling in and out of our airports, especially, the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA)...I will leave it there.
It seems to me that not enough interest is placed on the proper maintenance of the state’s fire services...they are just as important, comparable-to-all-of-the-other-government departments, ministries and offices... and ought to have the same parity... given from time to time, especially during the national debates and allocations for the government offices...which is never the case and has been lacking in this area for the greater part of 40 years. One need not look very far, the evidence is blatantly staring us in the face, if we were to visit the fire department at police barracks, East Street...the steel hull housing the fire apparatus was constructed during the year 1980...this rusted hull of a building, looks like a huge mechanics shop...which has been battered by numerous hurricanes...and which is on display for the world to see...each year, firemen from Fire Houses throughout the world, pay courtesy calls on our state’s premier fire department… and housed within the headquarters for the Royal Bahamas Police Force, and in my estimation, is a disgrace...and we must do better...
Mr National Security Minister and Mr Commissioner of Police, the blame is not yours...there is no question that numerous Prime Ministers were given the reports... outlining the deplorable conditions of the state’s fire services, yet nothing has been done...the Public Treasury of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas... is well able to write the cheque for the demolition of this decayed steel structure, but for some reason unknown to me...does not have the will to do so? But I will give my five cents...as a former fire officer, Fire Prevention inspector, Arson Investigator, Detective, tax payer, husband, father, sibling, cousin, friend, evangelist and Bahamian...I call on the Prime Minister of this country, that if he does not believe me...to pay a personal visit, the same way you have visited other countries devastated by hurricanes...accompanied by your colleagues....
Sir, respectfully, I beg of you to please find the time to visit the Royal Bahamas Police Fire Services at Police Headquarters and see for yourself...and please, take the Minister of Finance Hon Peter Turnquest with you...also the Treasurer of the Public Treasury of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas...The Hon Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister...so that the decision to demolish, replace or rebuild the structure, can/will be signed off-on- then…as-you are empanelled at the Senior Officers Mess (SOM), Police Headquarters, East Street North… these are the kinds of action plans we need in our country...the time for talking are long gone...please use the Bahamian people’s money to better the conditions of God’s people...after all, God is watching and we all will be adjudged on our efforts, our stewardship....’Whatsoever ye have done to the least of these , my brethren, ye have done it unto Me”, said God Most High, has spoken it.
Thank you, Editor, for not only the time, but for your platform...which is so much valued in our country, and is vitally important to the balanced views getting out there.
This article has as its focus, the Generations of Bahamians unborn…these are the ones that I continue to have to find the strength to write for and on their behalf...because, I want there to still be a country for them...where they can find property to build their homes...places for employment...and generally, to be the major ethnic grouping in their country, the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, that’s all.
May 6, 2019