Fire safety and prevention should be everyone’s concern, regardless of the structure of your house or socio-economic status. Last week, a news item on television showed how challenging the job of a firefighter is in the absence of working fire hydrants across Jamaica. A fire hydrant is a connection point by which firefighters can tap into a water supply. In the news item, fire fighters, upon the arrival of the scene of the fire, discovered that the fire hydrant was not in working condition. As a result, their work was severely hampered and house burnt out completely. One can only wonder what if the fire hydrant was working. We need to ask whose responsibility it is for the maintenance of fire hydrants. We need to develop some standards for the safeguarding of the country’s fire hydrants. Fire hydrants can be affected by the regular wear and tear, vandalism and mechanical function. However, years ago, our fire hydrants were regularly serviced which included painting and the greasing of caps.

We clearly need to revisit the issue of fire hydrants as it relates to fire safety and prevention. In the same way in which we have employed environmental wardens; why not employ fire hydrants wardens to ensure the maintenance of these essential elements of fire safety and protection? There is clearly a need for a public education campaign regarding the care and protection of the nation’s fire hydrants. Additionally, more fire hydrants are required throughout the country, this should be a requirement especially for newly constructed housing schemes.

The Jamaica Fire Brigade tagline speaks to saving lives and protecting property, however, if there are not working fire hydrants their mandate will be difficult to achieve. In some jurisdictions for example, in Ireland and the United Kingdom, fire hydrants are located in the ground. The government needs to explore all options regarding having fire hydrants which work. We need to find the resources to ensure this. A country will not attract investments if there is not a robust fire prevention and safety apparatus in place.

Wayne Campbell