Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Message from Chief Fire Officer - Let's Be Fire Smart

Fires may occur at any given time of year, month, week or day, but there are certain times when the risk or likelihood of a fire increases. One such high-risk period is during the Christmas season.

This increase in fire risk and personal injury comes about because of the traditional behaviour of people around this time. In most instances, persons mean well as they set about to host and entertain friends and family, while treating them to the traditional Christmas lunch or dinner.

This, of course, is preceded by putting up many decorative lights. Additionally, the use of decorative and aromatic candles, increased electrical usage by way of appliances and lighting, long curtains near the stove, frequent open flames through the cooking of many dishes, can contribute to fire hazards. Also, children as well as adults becoming fatigued from shopping and house cleaning.

These events can lead to complacency, carelessness, neglect and, eventually, unforeseen emergencies. Persons become so engrossed in the traditions of the season that sometimes common sense and prudence, overshadowed by the sights and sounds of Christmas, and benevolence and safety concerns are forgotten.

I am imploring the general public to enjoy the festive season, but be responsible as you go about your activities. While you may not be able to eliminate the imposed risk, you can certainly make a concerted effort at managing it.

The Barbados Fire Service has been working assiduously to educate the public in the areas of fire prevention and fire safety. We have heightened awareness in the value of installing smoke alarms and extinguishers in private homes, businesses and other buildings.

Based on statistics so far for this year, we have experienced a significant reduction in fire calls when compared to previous years (please see table). This is obviously not an occasion when the service should be resting on its laurels, but rather strengthen its efforts to ensure the downward trend is sustained.

Of course, the responsiveness of the public to our fire safety messages and the increasing consciousness of property owners about safeguarding their investments, have contributed in no small way to the results we are now seeing.

One area of concern not mentioned in the statistics is the frequency with which the Fire Service is called out for false or malicious reports.

Those calls resulted in the service being mobilised 116 times in 2007, 138 times in 2008 and 120 times so far this year. It is a significant waste of resources which could otherwise be utilised in legitimate activities.

We are imploring members of the public who find this amusing to desist from this practice. We want, however, the interest in and commitment to safety to continue. It will greatly assist us if the public could follow the safety tips listed below to aid them in having a blessed and fire-free Christmas.

By Lloydson Phillips - Acting Chief Fire Officer

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Passengers Hurt As US Airliner Goes Careening Out Of Kingston Airport

One hundred and forty-five passengers aboard American Airlines flight
331 from Miami narrowly missed death as the aircraft overran the Norman Manley International Airport runway in Kingston, ending inches away from the sea along the Port Royal main road last night.

More than 40 passengers aboard the Boeing 738 aircraft were taken to hospital, The Gleaner has learnt. According to Information Minister Daryl Vaz, most of those suffered broken bones.

"Some (passengers) were shaken up badly, some are suffering from trauma and broken bones," Robert Mais, a passenger who walked off without any scratches told The Gleaner.

According to Mais, the plane, which was scheduled to depart Miami at 7 p.m., was delayed for an hour. The trip, he said, was bumpy "and the landing was terrible".

"We touched down pretty fast," he added, noting that he could hear the engine's reverse throttle, though the plane didn't seem to be slowing down.

Instinctively, he said he placed his head down, "and it was over in a flash. I hardly felt the impact of the crash".

Mais, who was seated in seat 6A in the business class section, said there was total darkness on impact, and everything was thrown out of the overhead compartments. He, however, did not realise the impact of the damage to the aircraft until he felt rain coming through the roof.

"When I came off the aircraft I saw that we were about 10-15 feet from the sea and boulders, so I walked on the beach to the road, where we were picked up by a bus."

Chairman of the Airports Authority of Jamaica, Mark Hart, when contacted, said it was possible that torrential rainfall affecting the island could have caused the pilot to experience visibility problems.

"It is obviously a blessing that at this time of the year, what could have turned out to be a catastrophe, we were saved from," said Hart.

At least one other airline was affected by the mishap. A Virgin Atlantic plane, fully loaded, heading for the United Kingdom, was delayed for an unknown period as the runway had to be closed.

Paul Hall, vice-president of NMIA, said the airport would be closed indefinitely and all flights would be rerouted to Sangster International in MoBay.

Efforts to get a comment from American Airlines officials locally proved futile.

About midnight, two ambulances pulled up at the Kingston Public Hospital with at least 10 passengers with minor injuries, one with a busted lip, others suffering with body pain.

Some passengers had been admitted earlier with broken bones, a source told this newspaper. Most of those admitted had head injuries.

The entrance to the accident and emergency unit was heavily guarded by more than a dozen armed police personnel.

Doctors and nurses were last night being called from home to boost resources at the reportedly short-staffed KPH, The Gleaner learnt.

Shortly after midnight, Edith Allwood-Anderson, president of the Nurses' Association of Jamaica, rushed into the casualty department, her face etched with concern.

At the Harbour View roundabout, amid pelting rain, police personnel cordoned off the area, blocking vehicular traffic to the accident site.

Superintendent Michael Bailey of the Kingston East Division, who was manning operations there, told The Gleaner at 12:30 this morning that no more injured passengers remained at the crash site. He said the police blockade at the Port Royal section of the Palisadoes strip would remain indefinitely.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Message From Bajan Fire Fighters

The end of another year is near and we find it necessary to thank our members, friends, and all other persons affiliated with the Bajan Fire Fighters’ Network. We extend our heartfelt thanks to you for your invaluable assistance throughout the year.

It has been a spectacular 12 months and your support is much appreciated. We launched our Facebook Fan Page on September 4, 2009 and the response has been tremendous. The move from our Facebook Group to a Fan Page has brought numerous benefits with the addition of several useful applications. Our Facebook fans now have access to our YouTube videos, Ustream channel, Fan Polls, and Blogger news feed without ever leaving Facebook.

Our YouTube channel was created on April 28, 2009 and continues to generate much interest. Plans are already well underway for our video diary which should commence in January 2010. Twitter has proven to be extremely useful in allowing our network to disseminate information in a timely manner as incidents unfold. The Ning platform has also enabled our network to better organize our members from the fire service and enhanced our ability to publish information for firefighters via various special interest groups while in the same network.

We are excited about the growth of our Network and anxiously look forward to serving you in the New Year. We wish you the warmest of holiday greetings and pledge to continue providing the same quality social interaction.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World AIDS Day 2009

Started on 1st December 1988, World AIDS Day is about increasing awareness, fighting prejudice and improving education. The World AIDS Day theme for 2009 is 'Universal Access and Human Rights'. World AIDS Day is important in reminding people that HIV has not gone away, and that there are many things still to be done.

According to UNAIDS estimates, there are now 33.4 million people living with HIV, including 2.1 million children. During 2008 some 2.7 million people became newly infected with the virus and an estimated 2 million people died from AIDS. Around half of all people who become infected with HIV do so before they are 25 and are killed by AIDS before they are 35.

The Barbados Fire Service HIV/AIDS Committee was established in June 2007 and seeks to provide assistance, support and education to members of the Fire Service and their families. The committee also has a secondary role as a member of the national HIV/AIDS campaign.

Fire Officers have donated to the HIV/AIDS Food Bank and attended numerous sensitization programmes during the last two years. The HIV/AIDS Committee has also been instrumental in piloting the creation of an HIV/AIDS Policy for the members of the Barbados Fire Service. On this World AIDS Day 2009 we ask that you continue to support HIV/AIDS awareness and the work of the various local organizations.