Sunday, April 14, 2024

Safety upgrades


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The absence of emergency exits in some Bridgetown stores has been a talking point since six young women lost their lives in a fire four years ago after being unable to escape from the building.

The tragedy took place on September 3, 2010 when two men started a fire at Campus Trendz store in Tudor Street and, like many other stores in the area, there was no emergency exit.

Some critics have said that not much has changed and a WEEKEND NATION sought to get an up-to-date picture when it visited The City.

At Passion Boutique, on Tudor Street, there was a definite change as manager Kevin Chase said the owners had taken measures following the tragedy.

“There was no access before but now there is a door leading to Gateway Mall in case of emergencies. The mall owners put it in place after seeing what happened [four years ago] and honestly I now feel much safer because you need to have an emergency exit,” he said.

Chase said the newer stores were being built with safety in mind but the older ones were still lacking in emergency doors.

As if to prove his point, one of the newer stores, Tropicana on nearby Swan Street, was celebrating being open for a week with a sale. Management told the team they had an emergency exit, which had passed a fire service inspection.

On the other hand, Fusionz on Tudor Street still has no emergency exit. An employee there, who declined to be identified, said the situation was far from satisfactory.

“The people we are renting from should put in a back door as every building should have an exit for emergencies but most of the stores along Tudor Street still don’t have them,” he said.

Manager of Showtime Barbara Green said that while they did have an emergency exit, it was not fully satisfactory. This store is also located along Tudor Street.

“We have an exit door to the side and the key is always at hand but you can’t put a back door here as we are adjoined to a next building so there’s nothing else we can do. I think that you should always have a fire escape door, especially after that incident and we’d appreciate a back door but how could we get one?” she said.

Green said the only way would be if the owners of the two adjoining buildings agreed to knock out a doorway between them so one place can evacuate to the other should the need arise.

Store clerk David Forde said he was living in hope and fear, in equal measure.

“We have burglar bars on all the windows, which keeps people out but also keeps us in. I just hope nothing like September 3 happens,” he said.

S. Y. Adam on High Street is one of the more popular stores but, unlike its Swan Street counterpart, it does not have a back exit. However, a representative, who requested anonymity, said this was poised to change.

“We are going to cut something in the back and place a sign so if there is a problem, people can go through the back into the alley and this will happen within a month,” he said.

The team also paid a visit to the new LIME store along Swan Street. However, staff pleaded ignorance as to whether there was an emergency exit or not and instead referred the paper to main management.


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