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Put stations nearer to fire zones - UTech lecturer

Published:Sunday | April 5, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Firemen attempting to put out a blaze that destroyed two premises at 15 and 17 Paisley Road, Craig Town recently.

A lecturer at the University of Technology (UTech) is pushing for the use of geographic information systems (GIS) technology to prevent and fight fires.

Lecturer in the Faculty of the Built Environment Alvin Clarke says a recent study done by the UTech has confirmed that GIS can be used to locate high-risk areas or 'hot spots', identify location of malicious false alarms, map hydrant coverage, and assess the emergency response of the fire department.

The study, A Geographic Information Systems Approach To Post Incident Analysis of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, was

conducted in 2013 and utilised GIS to analyse emergency responses by the Jamaica Fire Brigade during 2010.

The study found that fire stations were not meeting the standard for response times due to the fact that fires were occurring outside of the immediate radius of the stations.

"Where we have the fire stations currently, these were placed from when Kingston was just being built. Since then, the city has expanded and there were no new stations built, which is why you have the Half-Way Tree station responding everywhere," argued Clark.

He noted that the importance of GIS in fire prevention was a dominant feature of the study.


malicious false alarms


According to Clarke, the data indicated the fires at garbage heaps in downtown Kingston are the source of many fires in the area and the National Solid Waste Management Authority should place more bins in that area to reduce the number of rubbish fires and allow fire fighters to concentrate resources on more critical incidents.

Additionally, the study revealed that malicious false alarms were concentrated in lower-income communities. Clarke argued that this indicates that the fire department needs to target its community outreach in these areas in an effort to bring about behaviour change.

"If you reduce malicious false alarms and rubbish fires significantly, then you would have reduced the unnecessary trips that the truck has to make," said Clarke.

Public relations officer at the Jamaica Fire Brigade Emilio Ebanks confirmed that the study was shared with the leadership of the fire service and that steps are being taken to utilise GIS technology in fire prevention.

"The section of the study that I focused on was the hydrant network. Since then, we have repaired several hydrants and continue to do so," said Ebanks.

"We just completed training about 48 persons in GPS mapping technology. We have acquired some units, along with software and we are now in the process of rolling those out."

Clarke accepted that the fire brigade has been making efforts to utilise GIS, however, he argued that there is need for a more coordinated approach towards solving the problems facing the brigade.

"It has to do with policy and getting support for the fire service. other agencies have to help. We have technology where you can track calls, so you should be able to penalise persons making malicious false alarms.

"We need those policy-driven initiatives because you can immediately see the dollar benefits of reducing malicious false alarms and bush fires. If fire fighters don't have to deal with those incidents, they would have time to service the hydrants and do more strategic things."