Through collaboration…


Seminar alerts business community to fire safety, prevention
A FIRE safety awareness seminar was conducted at Carifesta Sports Complex, Carifesta Avenue, in the city, through collaboration amongst Guyana Fire Service (GFS), its Advisory Board, Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and the Private Sector Commission (PSC).
The one day programme was aimed at highlighting the importance of fire safety and fostering a closer working relationship with the business community.
Fire Chief, Marlon Gentle, welcomed the first interaction with the business community and said the turnout shows heed to the call.
He said, based on what was said by the three speakers before him, more needs to be done about safety and fire prevention.
Gentle challenged the business community to take up the preventative mantle as a routine and look at the risks which are greater in the capital where more fires can occur and result in serious consequences.
He said damages can be severe and prevention is all about fighting a blaze before it starts, because 90 per cent of the causes involve human elements.
Gentle emphasised that a collaborative effort is needed as the business landscape in the township has changed to larger buildings which accommodate malls etc. and, consequently, loads of hazardous combustibles are stored.
He explained that bigger edifices come with responsibility and owners must ensure the safety of persons who use the facilities.
Gentle encouraged proprietors to install smoke and fire detectors in their business premises and make sure all exits are operational, as most businesses use their buildings for sales and storage.
He alluded to grills and shutters which often work against firefighters in the event of an outbreak and maintained that a lot more has to be done to reduce the risk.
According to him, although there is the Fire Prevention Act, more enforcement is needed and, as such, he called for collaborative initiatives within the business community.
He noted that, especially in this festive season, business people utilise the spaces in their stores to display their goods, altering the design of the place and compromising the safety of persons entering the premises.
Gentle advised that, in cases where the business owners need to create more space, they should first consult the GFS, because one change in the walls or stairways hampers safety.

He reported that, this year, there has been 20 per cent less fires and that goes to show persons are taking heed.
In opening remarks, Chairman of the Fire Advisory Board, Mr. Raj Singh confirmed that the seminar is the first of its kind to educate the business community and underscored the role of the body which falls under the Ministry of Home Affairs, with nine members selected from different organisations.
He said they advise the Minister on fire safety and prevention and provide training and information exchange.
Singh said they also pronounce on the standard of fire equipment in business places.
Hand-in-Hand Insurance Company representative, Mr. Howard Cox, who is the Director/Fire Manager, agreed there is need for awareness.
He disclosed that, for this year alone, the insurer paid out $600M in claims countrywide, for fires, most of which were preventable.
Cox said the fires were due to acts of carelessness and exhorted owners to insure their buildings, so they can be compensated in the event of a fire.
Another speaker was President of Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Mr. Komal Ramnauth, who gave a seven-point reminder on fire safety and prevention.
He spoke on basic safety measures for businesses and the necessity for persons to adhere to them.
Topics on the agenda yesterday included chemistry of combustion, fixed installations in business premises, evacuation procedures and extinguishers.