Fire service report concludes: TLM a fire hazard with serious risk to lives

Friday, October 18, 2019 - 01:00

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.