Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Fire safety at Christmas


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The Barbados Fire Service has observed an increase in fires for 2023 and is urging homeowners to be especially vigilant this holiday season.

Firemen responded to 1 294 fires from the start of year through December 10, an increase from 949 in 2022. Although house fires decreased by four to 62, there was also loss of life.

A message from Chief Fire Officer Errol Maynard urged practices to make it safe for all. This vigilance should not only be in the kitchen, but also when charging devices.


As we approach this festive season, I want to wish all a happy, safe, and enjoyable Christmas. To ensure that this is the case, I urge each one of you to prioritise safety in your homes, businesses, and communities.

This year, during the period January 1, to December 10, the Barbados Fire Service responded to 1 294 fires. This is in comparison to 949 for the same period last year.

Sixty-two of these calls were to private dwelling houses, a decrease of four on last year’s total, but several lives were lost. These numbers aren’t just statistics; they represent families affected and communities shattered.

This holiday season let’s take a moment to reflect on the importance of fire and life safety.  Simple precautions like checking smoke alarms, avoiding using open flames, and being mindful in the kitchen can significantly reduce risks.

Let’s come together as a nation to promote and encourage safety practices. Share safety tips with your loved ones; organise community awareness programmes; and take proactive steps to ensure a safe and secure environment for all.

Additionally, during this festive season, let’s collectively pledge to:

  • Avoid drinking and driving. Designate a responsible sober driver or use public transportation to ensure everyone’s safety on the roads.
  • Avoid cooking when tired. Fatigue can lead to accidents in the kitchen, you are therefore encouraged to rest before engaging in cooking activities or use something that does not involve lighting the stove.  Always be alert.
  • Prevent circuit overloads. Be vigilant, when using electrical appliances and avoid overloading electrical circuits.  Use them cautiously to prevent fire hazards.
  • Develop a family safety plan. Discuss and practise fire escape routes with your family to ensure everyone knows what to do and where to go in case of an emergency.
  • Avoid indiscriminate burning. Practise bagging your waste and refrain from burning in order to clean your property.
  • Create a community safety plan. Share safety strategies and emergency contacts with neighbours.  I urge you to look out for one another; be your brother’s keeper and foster a safer community environment.
The building at Reed Street was destroyed by fire. (Picture by Sandy Pitt)

As the usage of electric and hybrid vehicles, including e-bikes and e-scooters, increases in Barbados, ensuring safety becomes paramount.  Here are some key safety measures to follow:

  • Whenever feasible, charge e-bikes and e-scooters outdoors to minimise any potential indoor hazards.
  • Avoid storing or charging these vehicles in communal areas to ensure everyone’s ability to evacuate in case of emergencies.
  • Charge batteries only when you’re awake and alert, and avoid charging them while away from home.
  • Refrain from charging near combustible or flammable materials to prevent any risks of fire or accidents.
  • You are also encouraged to install fire alarms, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in your homes and businesses.
Firefighters on the scene at Military Road, Bush Hall, St Michael. (Picture by Lennox Devonish)

Prioritising these safety guidelines will help maintain a secure environment amid the rising use of electric mobility in Barbados.

Remember, safety should be an integral part of our celebrations. By mitigating risks and preventing accidents, we can ensure that this festive season remains joyous and free from harm.

Let’s remember that while the Barbados Fire Service is always ready to respond, our primary aim is prevention and mitigation.  Response becomes necessary only when all other measures fail.

We encourage everyone, therefore, “If you hear or see something, say something, and we will do something.”  Your vigilance and reporting plays a crucial role in preventing potential hazards.  Don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance or report any concerns regarding fire and life safety to us.

Our collective efforts to prevent and mitigate risks significantly reduce the chances of emergencies.  Let’s work hand in hand to ensure a safe and joyful holiday season for everyone.  May this holiday season be filled with joy, but also marked by a commitment to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. (PR/SAT)


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