The Transformed Life Ministry Rehabilitation Centre has been declared a fire hazard that posed a “serious threat” to the lives of all those who resided, worked and visited the Arouca facility.
The revelations were revealed in a fire life/safety inspection report by the T&T Fire Service that was conducted on October 9, a few hours after officers of the Special Operations Response Team (SORT) raided the compound and rescued 69 people—some of whom were in cages following a Guardian Media Limited investigation.
Guardian Media Limited, who assisted police with information that later led to the bust, obtained a copy of the fire report that was sent to the Minister of National Security last Monday by Chief Fire Officer (CFO) Marlon Smith.
The report stated, “Given the nature of the occupancy, (detention/healthcare) the Fire and Life Safety measures at the premises were grossly inadequate thereby posing a serious threat to life and safety of the residents, employees and visitors.”
The CFO said there were “specific areas of concern that should be considered as a matter of extreme urgency to be immediately dealt with.”
One of the three major areas of concern raised was, “the only accessible egress from within the facility is the front entrance of the structure. In the event of a fire-related emergency, persons within the structure particularly those within confined areas and those within the areas far from the main exit would be at great risk and may not be able to make a safe and timely escape”.
The report also raised major concerns about the “lack of an adequate and suitable fire alarm and detection system”. It said this in essence, “presents a serious risk to the occupants as there are no means for them to be aware of a threat to their lives of fire or smoke”.
Another significant concern stemmed from the lack of an automatic fire protection system, “to attack fires in the early stages and to assist the prevention of fire spread, allows for a fully manual response that is dependent on the availability, competence and ability of the staff present at the time of the incident.”
CFO Smith recommended a fully automatic fire protection system, since, “given the distance to the exit, the number of persons housed at the facility (some under confined conditions) and the potential challenge that the fire, heat and smoke may present during an emergency”.
The report made several recommendations which included installation of fire alarms, fire protection equipment (including a sprinkler system, fire extinguishers and a hose reel system).
It was also imperative according to the report that proper exit signs be erected if and when a fire occurs along with emergency lighting and proper exit routes.
Recommendations were also made about the commercial cooking operations at the facility as well as the safe storage of LPG tanks and flammable gas cylinders also found on the compound.
The report also indicated that training and evacuation should also be a priority which would include training of staff and security personnel to use Fire/Life Safety equipment, evacuation drills and plans and the maintenance of fire safety equipment.
Story by MARK BASSANT
Image by ABRAHAM DIAZ