Mon | Sep 24, 2018

Walker's Place of Safety had comprehensive safety plan

Published:Monday | January 22, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Gladstone Taylor/ Photographer Members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and Jamaica Fire Brigade in dialogue while at the Walker's Place of Safety last Tuesday.

Walker's Place of Safety had a comprehensive safety and security plan, in keeping with the 29 Standards of Care governing all childcare facilities across Jamaica, says the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA).

The safety of children who have been placed in state care was questioned in a Gleaner editorial last Saturday, after fire razed the facility, killing two children.

In response, the CPFSA said that the appropriate safety measures were in place, including working smoke detectors, a fire alarm system and five fire extinguishers that were mounted at key areas, as were recommended. In addition, exit and emergency signs were displayed, according to the CPFSA.

FIRE DRILLS

It says that between March and December 2017, several fire drills and attendant safety inspections had taken place at the facility.

"In an effort to improve the safety and security, we commi-ssioned a physical security inspection in 2017 for all private facilities, including Walker's Place of Safety," read a letter from the CPFSA.

"This exercise was conducted with a view to determine if there was any vulnerability regarding the current security status, as well as to provide recommendations as deemed necessary," it continued.

Last Tuesday, a fire of unknown origin tore through the childcare facility on Lyndhurst Crescent that housed 36 children. In its wake, two of the wards were confirmed dead from the blaze.

Walker's Place of Safety serves as a transitional residence for children, generally up to 12 years old, who have been abandoned or removed from their homes because of unstable conditions. It provided food and shelter, along with access to educational services and health care.

It was not the first time that children in state care were being killed as a result of fire. Such has been the case in the past at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre, the SOS Children's Village and Glenhope Place of Safety.

The Gleaner editorial pointed to the 2003 Keating Report that looked into conditions in children's homes and places of safety and which made 40 recommendations on how to prepare for disasters when and should they occur.

"We note your reference to the Keating Report and now advised that we managed to mobilise and implement all its 46 recommendations with varying levels of success and completions," said the CPFSA.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com