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Profound lessons for Jamaica from New York fire

Published:Friday | December 29, 2017 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin

Acting Assistant Commissioner Floyd McLean, chief fire prevention officer at the Jamaica Fire Brigade, believes that there are profound lessons to be learnt from a massive fire at an apartment building in the Bronx in New York City Thursday, which left 12 persons dead including at least four Jamaicans.

In an interview with The Gleaner yesterday, McLean directed his concerns to building developers, stressing that persons must understand that at least 70 per cent of building construction speaks to fire protection. As such, he believes the incident has brought into sharp focus the need for building standards to be enforced, be it apartments, hotels, officers, industrial occupancies.

“Given the rate of development now and some malpractices that can be identified now in the system, it (incident) rings close to home. We are still battling with improper building practices, improper occupancy standards. The larger responsibility rests with the developer but citizens also have a responsibility,” he said.

“Our developers must now wake up and adhere to standards in order to prevent early collapse of structure, fire and smoke spread in all occupied buildings; especially those that are sleeping accommodation. I purport that we take stock of the natural and manmade disasters more seriously and ensure that there is acceptable code enforcement which should lead to improved adherence to life safety standards.”

Questions that we should be asked during the development have to deal with:

1)  Are the structural elements adequately fire protected to prevent collapse during thermal degradation?

2) Are the life support systems so designed to give at least half hour protection on exiting the building during an emergency such as a fire?

3) Are the protected means of escape so designed to prevent inundation of smoke containing harmful gases?

4) Are the adequate fire protection devices installed with correct citing and maintained?

5) Are apartments, rooms or fire compartments separated according to design code standard?

6) Is there a comprehensive evacuation plan developed and instituted for the buildings being occupied?