Fire Brigade urges adherence to National Building Code, Disabilities Act

Sunday, April 21, 2019

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THE Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) is urging adherence by individuals and entities to stipulations under the National Building Code Jamaica, and the Disabilities Act, 2014.

Both are central to the building applications process and property site inspections.

Acting assistant commissioner at the JFB, Julian Davis Buckle said building specifications in Jamaica should be in accordance with stipulations under the law, particularly in relation to physically challenged persons.

Under the Disabilities Act, public or commercial premises should be accessible to and usable by physically challenged persons, and be built in accordance with the National Building Code.

Minimum access requirements include ramps, continuous handrails or grab bars, elevators where necessary, as well as designated parking spaces for people confined to wheelchairs.

Davis Buckle, who is also the JFB's acting chief fire prevention officer, was speaking at the recent launch of the third annual Nathan Ebanks Foundation Family Expo and Special Needs Fair at the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, in Kingston

She said that in addition to basic fire inspections and lectures, the JFB conducts building plan reviews and inspections.

“This is to ensure that existing and proposed buildings in Jamaica conform to the National Building Code… and the Disabilities Act. These, along with the National Fire Protection Association Codes, assist with the process of building inspections and applications. We inspect properties to ensure that they are friendly to persons with disabilities,” she said.

“Buildings in Jamaica should be in accordance with the law, and we are resolute in ensuring this happens. Our team ensures that no building plan passes through us if they are not adhering to the Disabilities Act,” Davis Buckle stated.

'Fire and Life Safety Awareness Week' 2019 is being observed from October 27 to November 2 under the theme 'Mek Wi Fix It...Community First'.

In an effort to encourage fire safeguards, the JFB has launched several campaigns and programmes aimed at highlighting the need for persons with disabilities, in particular, to be given priority in disaster preparedness and emergency plans and systems.

The JFB undertakes daily, monthly, quarterly, and yearly campaigns to heighten awareness in the event of fires, and to promote life safety practices.

The entity offers the following fire safety tips for persons with disabilities: every home should have an emergency exit plan drawn and mounted; place signs in braille (and other types of notifications based on specific disabilities) within your household; practise escape drills based on the identified disabilities of persons; and separate keys and keep a copy at a visible and accessible point near each exit.

If there are grilles in the home, ensure at least one of the windows is hinged and the key kept close in case of an emergency; purchase portable fire extinguishers and smoke detectors for the home; and ensure ramps are installed, where necessary, according to building code specifications.

Through its Fire Prevention and Public Relations Unit, the JFB has been building strategic partnerships with various organisations — public agencies and non-profit organisations — that support, educate, and provide services for persons with disabilities.

The JFB, in partnership with the Nathan Ebanks Foundation, is conducting disability sensitisation sessions islandwide.

These are aimed at developing the capacity of fire fighters and JFB civilian staff to interact appropriately with persons with disabilities.

The sessions, which are being held at JFB locations across the island, are scheduled for completion by October 2019.

The JFB also commenced the development of a mental health policy to increase its capacity to serve all citizens, including members of the disabled community.

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