Tuesday 20 August, 2019

Legislative, technological changes coming for Barbados Fire Service

Home Affairs Minister Edmund HInkson

Home Affairs Minister Edmund HInkson

Long promised changes are coming to the decades-old legislation which governs the Barbados Fire Service (BFS), with a view of bringing it into the 21st Century.

This from Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson, as he assured the public and fire officials that they are about more than talk.

He updated Fire Chiefs and senior officials during the weeklong Caribbean Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) conference and Symposium being held at the Accra Beach Resort and Spa in Barbados.

The Minister, under whose aegis the Barbados Fire Service falls, revealed the Barbados Fire Services Act of 1961 which establishes the government department, has existed without any substantial reform or revision since it was proclaimed.

“We, at the level of my Ministry, with input from the management of the Fire Service and the Caribbean Association of Fire Chiefs and officers, are actively preparing a new legislative platform for delivery of fire services, in order to modernize and position our service in line with current practices in the profession.  We have to ensure that our legislation facilitates the transition of the service into a comprehensive fire management and rescue operation which will allow it to ultimately be more [responsive] to the demands of the public in the 21st Century."

Then for those who had heard similar sentiments previously, he went on to highlight what work is underway, such as the new Protective Services Commission to facilitate promotions in a fair and just way, while addressing other concerns as well.

He continued:

“Additionally, our Fire Service is now under a brand new Protective Services Commission . . . recommended years ago in a Constitutional Law Commission led by Sir Henry Forde, a former long-standing Member of Parliament of Barbados, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Attorney General. We, just last month, brought that [Commission] into being; encompassing the protective services of Barbados . . . the Police, Fire, Immigration, Customs and Government Security Guards.  This initiative is expected to ultimately permit a more effective regime for the personal advancement and promotion of fire officers, among other matters.” 

While noting as well that the BFS will also have to re-engineer its workflow processes, the Home Affairs Minister stressed more work had to go into the computerization of activities and the use of more technological innovations.

And, his ministry was taking steps, with the help of the Ministry of Innovation and Smart Technology, to embrace technology - an integral part of the modernization process.

Hinkson has also called for the 17-year-old institution - the Caribbean Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC), which encompasses 28 Fire and Rescue Departments from the Bahamas in the North to Suriname in the South, to truly represent fire and emergency service professionals within the region and further afield.

This, he said would call for them to be better leaders, seeking to always provide continuous training and developmental programmes for staff.

“I want this association (CAFC) to seek partnerships at an even higher level.  You must forge strategic alliances and become the voice of the industry so that your association is perceived as a fundamental necessity at the level of CARICOM and be recognised as a vital unit regionally in the response chain to natural and man-made disasters, similar to organisations such as the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).

“You may, within this context, perhaps wish to consider whether you wish your Association to forge a partnership with the Caribbean Association of Fire Fighters to establish a Caribbean Rescue Unit comprising fire officers and medical personnel, who will be first on the ground to execute any rescue operations and increase the chances of survival and mitigate the losses of those affected,” the Home Affair Minister added.

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