Many building owners fail to seek Fire Service approval before construction

Last Updated on Sunday, 23 October 2016, 17:08 by Denis Chabrol

Many owners have constructed buildings without first submitting the architectural plans to the Guyana Fire Service (GFS) to ensure that the engineering and fire safety features have been included, according to Divisional Officer, Compton Sparman.

Addressing a security seminar and exposition organised by the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Sparman said the trend shows that many business owners are mainly concerned with getting their businesses up and running rather than pay greater attention to fire safety.

“There are no checks and balances and of such people want to go on with their businesses. They look at businesses as a priority which is good… but then the Fire Department is left with no other alternative but to give you recommendations that are not compatible because you already construct the building and certain fire safety mechanisms have to come from that stage of the plan,” he told a packed gathering at the seminar held at Duke Lodge, Duke Street, Kingston.

Sparman explained that the building plans should first be submitted to the Fire Department for recommendations on safety after site inspections would have been conducted.

“Most times it comes to us when the building is completed,” he said.

The senior fire officer said certain buildings should include sprinklers, high risers and suppressors, in addition to other engineering features. “Engineering starts from fore safety if the structure is not sound, you cannot have a proper building in event something should happen because you have to talk about dead load, superimposed load and the load of building,” he said.

The Guyana Fire Service wants the laws that date back to 1957 to be revised to include North American standards such as a Fire Safety and Occupancy Code.  Sparman said the GFS puts pressure on business owners to ensure the fire prevention and safety mechanisms are in place when they apply for a Safety Certificate.” We are saying that if you do not put this in place we will not issue a certificate and as such the licensing agency like GRA (Guyana Revenue Authority) will not give you a license.”

Sparman said the Guyana Fire Service does not get sufficient funds from government to deliver fire safety education and often had to rely on assistance from the business community. Because of the limitation of funds, we cannot spread our wings throughout the 83,000 square miles of Guyana and of such we concentrate basically on schools and radio programmes but those things cost money and sponsorship,” he added.

The Divisional Fire Officer noted that Guyana Water Incorporated has been rehabilitating fire hydrants but said those water sources, which date back to colonial times, are useless if there is no timely water pressure. “You could have all the hydrants in Guyana working but if you don’t have the pressure to fight the fire, it’s a waste of time,” he said, adding that it takes about 15 minutes before water supply is shut off to certain areas and diverted to the area of the scene of the fire.

Sparman said triple insurance premiums for buildings on Regent Street, Georgetown has a lot to do with the closeness of the buildings and deficient fire hydrants.