Sat | Feb 22, 2020

Fire traps - Several Falmouth businesses operating in breach of int’l code putting lives, properties in grave danger

Published:Saturday | May 18, 2019 | 12:22 AMLeon Jackson/Gleaner Writer
An exit in a Falmouth supermarket with one of the exits blocked off with a grille and goods. The fire brigade is worried that practices such as this could be putting lives in danger.

Western Bureau:

The Trelawny Fire Brigade has confirmed that at least 25 businesses, including supermarkets and haberdasheries, are operating in the town of Falmouth in breach of the International Fire Code as it relates to having clear exits in case of emergencies and an adequate number and placement of fire extinguishers.

According to the International Fire Code, businesses should have at least two clear exit routes to permit prompt evacuation of employees and other building occupants. The code also dictates that “a person should have to walk no more than 75 feet to reach a fire extinguisher”.

It appears that even new buildings and even those that have undergone renovations are also in breach. The Fire Prevention Section of the parish’s fire brigade is reporting that when they made checks on a newly refurbished building in Water Square in the heart of the Trelawny capital, they discovered that it, too, had numerous breaches.

“There were no alarm systems, there were no [emergency] exits, there was no ventilation, and because of the breaches, the building was not fire certified or commissioned to begin serving the public,” said Patrick Robinson, a deputy superintendent at the Trelawny Fire Brigade.

This, however, has not stopped the owners from opening the doors.

“I am surprised that it is open to the public,” Robinson said.

Shortage of personnel

He pointed out that in cases where businesses are found to be operating in breach of the various guidelines, the owners are usually asked in writing to remedy the breaches.

“We usually write to proprietors and point out the breaches and ask them to rectify them before other actions are taken if breaches are not corrected,” said Robinson.

However, a shortage of personnel is hampering efforts by the fire brigade to provide effective and continuous monitoring.

Robinson said that the shortage of staff in the Fire Prevention Section is compounded by the fact that they have to cover the entire parish.

The Trelawny Municipal Corporation, which is responsible for licensing businesses operating in the parish, pointed out that the fire brigade is responsible for addressing these breaches.

“The municipality will only become involved when there is a report to us from the fire department,” said Falmouth Mayor Collen Gager.

“A fire-code breach is different from a building-code breach. The fire department is charged with the responsibility of the fire code. When a report is made to us, we act guided by the law,” he said.