What is an Emergency? The Barbados Association of Retired Persons {BARP} would like to know! Sheraton Park fire blazes for 5 hours before Trucks arrive – Water conservation?

Got this video today from Michael Goodman, a Director of the Board of BARP. He lives in Sheraton Park, and he decided to shoot it with a DV-Cam and says he’s got about 5 minutes or more of this Fire from Sat 6th February and he cut it into a 30 second clip to show the danger of this blaze which was confirmed by the Bajan Firefighters’ Blog.

Courtesy - Bajan Firefighters' Blog

Courtesy - Bajan Firefighters' Blog

What was worse, was when Michael checked on older neighbours to see if they were ok, many were panicking to the point where they packed belongings ready to evacuate! The fire started 9:00 am and response came by around 2:00 pm, it begs the question of what happened in those 300 minutes?

Michael called 311 and …. ? No reply! In desperation, he calls 211 and the woman on duty just repeats to call 311, no matter how many times Michael tries to explain to the female officer on duty that he cannot get a reply from the dreaded number! He calls Central Police Station, they make a note of the time and date of his “complaint” and offer to try 311 for him, but the only other advice the Corporal can offer is to try the District Emergency Management team…

Ever look at the phonebook? Take a look – you’ll find “During Office Hours” for the DEM and there’s a number listed, but for other times call  – The Police! So remember folks, if you have an Emergency, you have to slot it between 9 to 5, Mon to Fri’s, you naughty Bajans! All I can say is that the fire service was lucky there were no asthmatics in that vicinity on that particular occasion, yet Barbados is getting more and more asthmatic by the year, not even decade!

14 Responses

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  1. It is regrettable that the above article was published before obtaining the facts from the Barbados Fire Service. The fire department received its first report of this fire at 10:35 a.m. At 10:36 a.m. a fire tender was diverted from Parish Land, Christ Church to the aforementioned fire.

    The fire tender and its crew arrived on the fire scene at 10:48 a.m. An informative message was sent to “Fire Control” at Fire Service Headquarters indicating that fire was burning in a wide area. Three auxiliary tenders (water carts) subsequently joined the fire fight along with a fire tender from the Arch Hall station and a Station Officer (In charge of the incident).

    Firefighters conducted firefighting operations until the fire was extinguished at 17:14 hours. Your article indicates the fire started at 9:00 a.m, please explain how this fire blazed for five hours before trucks could arrive?

  2. Hi Glyne;

    I can only state what Michael Goodman was telling me… I am glad you came forward to clarify, but you have not answered as to what happened with Mr Goodman’s attempt to report the blaze and his circuitous, and torturous, process in alerting officials to the situation? What is being done to allow folk to report fires in After Hours or Emergency situations? Will you recruit volunteers for a 24-Hr Rapid Response on the landlines? What about that?

    Also if you look at the footage, you see the flames quite close to residences, if your team was as quick as you claim, why did Mr Goodman see fit to make a complaint in the first place?

    Thanks for visiting!

  3. Ian,

    As you can appreciate the recent surge in fires has kept the 311 fire lines at Fire Service Headquarters very busy. Sometimes callers will find it difficult to get through to our dispatchers. However, reports can also be made to any fire station on a 24 hour basis. Mr. Goodman can contact his nearest station (Worthing Fire Station) should another fire related incident occur.

    Secondly, because Mr. Goodman could not see the fire tender does not mean that they were not present. With regard to his complaint to you, please note that we have established channels in the fire department for addressing complaints. If Mr. Goodman has a concern he may contact the department in writing, via fax, phone or email.

  4. Well pull Mr. Alleyne, this period has had our dispatchers very busy, with ALL trucks being out of the station for majority of the day and having to be diverted. 435-7478 or 435-8351 for Worthings Fire Station are the numbers Mr. Goodman could have used after not getting a response from 311. ALL numbers are manned 24-7 but one or two dispatchers cannot answer 7 lines and take accurate information all at one time. The public needs to realise that humans are the ones responding, we drive on the road just like anyone else and not teleport and if the fire is burning in a WIDE area, then the truck can only be at one place at a time.

    Quoted from Mr. Goodman “All I can say is that the fire service was lucky there were no asthmatics in that vicinity on that particular occasion, yet Barbados is getting more and more asthmatic by the year, not even decade!”

    I would like to know how asthmatics in the area would have altered the response of the Fire Service. All calls are emergency calls, and if you are affected by the smoke please move to a safer zone. Prevention is better than cure, so why wait until to feel you are going to pass out to then try to get out of the area? Clearly Mr. Goodman has too much time on his hands and instead of filming and complaining, being the head of BARP, he should have lead the evacuation of affected persons.

    Headquaters (Btown) 426-3504/426-3509
    Worthing 435-7478/435-8351
    St James 422-2407/422-2186
    St.John 433-1250/433-0857
    Arch Hall 421-8659/421-8663
    EMERGENCY – 311

    Please make use of these numbers.

  5. What a nickname for a firefighter! You all sidestep the issue where I suggested volunteers for answering calls? You all sidestep the matter where not even Fire Service but the District Emergency Management has no After Hours number for those in dire straits? Be real; How can one man lead an evacuation? It seems Mr Goodman exposed a few flaws in the system and you are trying to douse a persistently EMBERassing situation?

  6. Fire Service comes under the Ministry of Home Affairs. The powers that be can only answer that question about volunteers. D.E.M however would have to speak for their own. No one is side stepping any issue. Within every organisation there will be flaws as we are all human, but Mr. Goodman has not exposed anything but the fact that there was a fire in his area. I don’t think it would take any army to encourage persons in a neighbourhood that if the smoke is affecting them to leave the area. Also it would not be right to assume it took 5 hours or how much ever time it took you to see the truck, to assume it now arrived on the scene. I also fail to see the embarrassment and hope you point out the flaws that makes this situation an embarrassing one.

  7. I can keep this up forever – ok? How does MOHA affect procuring volunteers to handle phone calls? Mr Goodman did not see trucks until the time he stated, I have covered more than one fire in my time and usually I arrive before the trucks do, once there I’d ask firemen why they are not wetting such-and-such a place and all I am told is ‘do my job and they do theirs‘ when one has reached such arrogance then it is time to take a breather or refresher… Finally, if there’s no embarrassment or any such reaction, then why have TWO members of the Fire Service seen fit to rebut or dispute this item? Something must be irritating you all, and as you of all folk are aware of – where there’s smoke … ?? Have a great day and thanks for visiting!

  8. AIRBOURNE, Mr.Goodman , volunteer yourself and come sit in the control room fa 5 mins and work and i know u would realise how much chaos and hard work it is, each fire fighter was first trained in control room procedures and its never the same. If by anychance you believe you jus sit wait on a call an take it, den sir, you are sadly mistaken. As to your question about an after hours number, all lines at each fire station is operated every single hour of the day and night, sometimes only one person will be in the control room therefore he can only answer one call at a time, and he not only has to take dat call but also the information time etc so if you call an you dont get through either hold the line til the dispatcher gets to you or hang up either call again or call the station nearest to you. I assure you dat all officers have been trained and upon reaching the fire scene they determine which area NEEDS to be controlled first so if Mr. Goodman expects them to come an park outside of his house so he will know they are there he is sadly mistaken. Next time, I ask that instead of assuming that the appliance (fire truck) has now arrived on scene drive around an check first and rather dan stay and take shots an videos with your camera join in the fire fight grab some bush and help rather dan stay perched at home and expect a miracle, please understand we are humans too and can only do so much and sometimes after going to 6 other fires and being diverted to another is not as easy as you may think. ITs your property join in the fight and lets make and keep Barbados and Barbadians safe in these trying times. Thanking you in advance for your understanding.

  9. I appreciate your time to detail some trials and tribulations but you are misunderstanding me, I am suggesting you have volunteers whose job is answer phones, period. Nothing else they report the complaints or alarms to officers. What is the big deal for that? Isn’t Samaritans hotline 24 hours? Aren’t they volunteers? Ok, next round! Ding-ding!

  10. I would respectfully ask that Mr. Glyne Alleyne, Firegod and Canonlydosomuch read the report on the website again. I do not believe you have fully understood the main point I was trying to communicate through the story. I think the fire service in Barbados does a remarkable job in their efforts to respond to what is almost certainly the result of widespread arson. I simply told Bajan Reporter of my personal experience on that particular day.

    It started when the skies to the east began to display the tell tale smoke trails as early as 9am. Sadly, that has recently been an almost daily occurrence and often lasts no longer than an hour or so after which all that is left is the scorched and devastated land and a coating of soot on everything downwind of the fire. I never suggested that the fire was actually encroaching the properties in Sheraton Park as early as 9am. I have no idea which of the many fires which were burning to the east of Sheraton Park was reported to the fire service at 10.35 that morning.

    It was not until much later in the morning when the fires seemed to be spreading and raging out of control and moving closer and closer to the area east of Sheraton Park. As it got closer, I sensed that there was a real threat to the houses on that side of Sheraton Park and felt sure I would not be the first to call 311. However, as the flames got closer, I felt I should make the call because it seemed likely this was turning into something more serious than other recent fires.

    My utter frustration arose out of the apparent disinterest of other services to my concern. I fully appreciate that for a fire of that size, the switchboard to the 311 service was probably jammed, hence the lack of a reply. However, it was the tone of disinterest I received when I dialled 211 that truly concerned me. The operator made no suggestion other than to keep trying 311. I had expected they would at least take note of the emergency call, offer to pass it on, suggest alternative numbers to call (i.e. the local fire stations ? I was not aware I could call individual fire stations ? the numbers do not appear in the emergency section at the front of the telephone directory). The fact was that the 211 operator knew nothing about the problem and did not seem interested in offering any advice or guidance on what to do next.

    I then went back to the telephone directory and saw a number for the Department of Emergency Management. This was routed to Police Headquarters out of hours. Once again, I was told to call 311 and only after pressing the officer, was told they were ?aware? of the incident.

    In response to Glyne Alleyne?s suggestion that I make a complaint through established channels, I re-iterate that I have no complaint against the sterling work of the fire service in these unnecessarily challenging times. If I have any complaint, it is that the sooner the perpetrators of these crimes are relentlessly pursued and considerably punished, the better for everyone.

    Back to Firegod ? the public need to be made more aware that 311 is not their only option to call in a fire emergency. Also, if you read the article, you will see it was not my quote about asthmatics in the vicinity. I merely conveyed the fact that people in and around the area were experiencing breathing difficulties as the smoke was making the air acrid which would have been devastating for asthmatics. Finally, I resent the comment about having too much time on my hands. Not that it is any of your business, but I have been associated with BARP for the last 4 years and often work a 70-85 hour week Monday to Sunday on a voluntary basis on BARP business. So I guess I will stick to what I do best and leave emergency management to those who have chosen to occupy their time with that.

    I assume there are additional support services available to the Police, Fire and Ambulance and if so, I wonder where they were they on that day when you all could clearly have done with all the help you could get. And as for your suggestion that I should have ?led the evacuation of affected persons?, I have absolutely no authority to advise people to leave their property, nor do I have the qualifications, skills or ability to do so in an appropriate manner. It is my understanding that there are people in Barbados who are appropriately trained to act in such a manner in an emergency and I would not assume such a role as I might well risk making the situation worse due to my inexperience in such matters. My priority was to attempt to get professional help for the emergency and it is the difficulty I had in making contact to do just that which is at the heart of the article. In the 6 hours and 34 minutes of the 6 hour and 39 minute emergency that I wasn?t using my video camera, I also resent your inference that I would not, without hesitation, have responded to the needs of someone in actual peril.

    And Canonlydosomuch, I do not doubt for one moment that the response in a control room to an event as widespread as this is overwhelming, but I would have expected more acknowledgement, support or advice from the other service numbers I tried to call who should have been aware of the problem and should also have been offering their support and help to you all. I do not, as you suggest, expect to see a fire truck in front of my house, but traditionally in an emergency, sirens can be heard wailing through the air in the areas of the emergency, and I can only tell you the first siren I, or any of my neighbours heard, was not until some time after the fire was clearly closing in on the properties in the area. All we could hear, loudly, was the crackling sound of advancing flames. Had I been able to contact the emergency services, no doubt they would have been able to confirm that trucks were in the area doing the best they could. That is all I wanted to know. That you all knew the trouble we might be in and were doing what you could to help us.

    My point in taking 5 minutes of video was to make sure people knew just how dangerous a situation it had been and that it was not just a ?little grass fire? in Christ Church. I also videoed it because CBC did not respond to calls to cover the emergency and I wanted to make sure something was on record.

    In my capacity as a director of BARP, my concern is to constantly be aware of the challenges faced by older people, especially those who might in any way be at increased risk by reason of illness, disability or age. BARP takes very seriously its mission to help improve the quality of the lives of older people in Barbados and this would include trying to ensure that the necessary mechanisms are in place for them to be able to get help in an emergency. It would also include concern not just about their physical, but also their psychological safety. The fire service will be well aware of the anxiety related to the threat or existence of fire and whilst I am blessed with the resourcefulness to persist in trying to contact someone in authority for help, many older people would not have this capacity. I would therefore hope for some improvement in the facilities for making contact with the authorities in an emergency. This need not mean more personnel, but perhaps even a system where a recorded message tells callers to the service of their knowledge of the event and gives other numbers to call if the caller still feels the need to speak to someone. Recording such a message would take no more than a minute or two and could be played out in the same way as the infuriating ?your call is important to us? while waiting for a response. ?If you are calling about the fires in Christ Church, please be assured that we are fully aware of the situation and are attending to it at this time. If you feel you or your property may be in danger, please collect only your most essential items, cash, passport, insurance documents, valuable jewellery and pets, then leave your property and move away to a safe area. If you still wish to speak to someone, please call?.?

    Once again, please accept my gratitude and that of the vast majority of right minded people for the dangerous and challenging work you all do in the emergency services, often against all odds. Perhaps a look at how communication technology could serve you and us all better in such circumstances would be worth looking at.

    Michael Goodman

  11. First and foremost i sincerely apologise for the misunderstanding and after taking the time to read your above comment i am sure i have a better understand of what it is you have been trying to say. They are a number of issues which needs to be address within and between the Barbados Fire Service the Government of Barbados and other emergency departments that as long as i can remember should of been long addressed, however amidst the trying and extremely difficult and perplexing circumstances and situations, the officers of the Fire Service continue to report in for duty and carry out their responsibilities as fast and effectively as they possibly can. They are and has always been a number of plans and ideas that were in place, money that has been spent to better handle and operate from receiving information from the concerned public about emergencies to telephone calls and handling the turning out of fire appliances to emergencies. With all of that said the department is however at a complete standstill at the crossroad not knowing if to move left or right until certain heads of Government and other department heads of other emergency services and departments gives the final ok. So to all of you and the concerned public of BArbados we have our heads above the water even tho there is a drought and as much as we would love to more assist in every way possible at this point in time we can only do the best we can with the little we have and pray that God Almighty continues to bless us and protect us from any major emergencies or disasters. MAY GOD HELP US ALL



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