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May 10, 2017

CEMO Meets the Public in Annual Symposium

There has been a spate of fires since the beginning of the year.  Though there have been no fatalities, there has been concern that the fire department has not been able to respond effectively. The City Emergency Management Organization held the first of a two-day conference on fire management at the Biltmore Plaza in Belize City. Today’s session focused on the readiness of first responders. News Five’s Andrea Polanco reports.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

CEMO is hosting its fifth annual symposium on Wednesday and Thursday. The event brings together a cross section of partners, including emergency first responders. The focus of the conference is on fire management, preparation and public awareness.

 

Darrell Bradley

Darrell Bradley, Belize City Mayor

“The idea is that when we talk about emergency management a main aspect of it is capacity building and sharing information; using best practices and really having a forum where first responders and emergency management practitioners and also policy makers and politicians can convene together and share strategies.   We are going to be looking at the legislation framework in terms of fire prevention. We are going to look at fires in homes. Fires in offices. We are going to look at prevention strategies and we are even going to look at policy. We are going to look even at policy. One of the things I mentioned is that you don’t think about prevention just from the home situation but when you look at building codes and things like that, that is a major risk within our society.”

 

With a spate of fires across the municipalities in recent months – a key part of the focus on this pressing emergency risk is the readiness of first responders – which means the skills and also the proper equipment needed to respond to a fire.

 

Ted Smith, Fire Chief, National Fire Service

“The work of the department is an ongoing process. It is an unending process. It continues round and round. We must continue to train at all times and we must continue to equip the fire service. Those go hand in hand. And when we talk about equipment we are talking about protective clothing, breathing apparatus, branch pipes, vehicles, things of that nature, rescue equipment.”

 

Ted Smith

Darrell Bradley

“We the elected officials must ensure that there is adequate budgetary support to ensure that the equipment is adequate. Even in my presentation I mentioned, that something as important to be looked at for the fire service officers is that they are appropriately remunerated. If you expect them to go into a fire and risk their lives, then they have to be paid appropriately.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Mayor, just recently in the reading of the national budget it was announced that the fire department budget is getting a cut; do you care to share your thoughts on this in light of all the fires across the city?”

 

Darrell Bradley

“Well, I think I would always put a plug in for emergency management. As the city grows and as we see expansion in terms of buildings and so forth there is always increased risk; so those areas I would say are emergency priority areas that should be expanded. One of the things that I will say though, is that we can be creative in relation to how we source equipment. The municipalities throughout Belize, I know San Ignacio, San Pedro, Belmopan, even Orange Walk have been quite active in developing sister city relationships. And one of the ways we get equipment is through these sister city relationship. So, it is not necessarily the budget will have the response, but you can have more creative ways to source equipment.”

 

CEMO, for the first time, is hosting international speakers to talk about maritime fire prevention and response. It is not often discussed in the wider conversation of fires, but as one of the expert notes, it is important considering that there is a growing number of vessels operating within Belize’s maritime spaces, such as cruise ships, barges and commercial boats.

 

Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson, Commercial Manager, Resolve Marine Group, FL

“The evolution of fire on board a ship is different from the evolution of fire on land. For example, in your house it may happen a lot faster. On board ships, a lot of the materials are fire resistant materials. However, when a fire starts on board a ship, even with effective management of fire it can burn for days. So, the way it is handled is totally different because you are dealing with fire in a steel box which is much different than a tall burning building. And it is also different in the way you fight it, for example, on board a ship you look to kill the fire – starve the fire of oxygen by closing all accesses to it. You can’t do that with a structural fire because you gave to go inside the structural fire to do – you are dealing with the normal lives so you have to open it up and get people out and fight the fire. So, it is a contrasting way to obtain the same means.  I know the fire department understand the differences, but I would like for the politicians and the people who provide the means to understand. I know it is additional resources and there is always a cost and it is a difficult thing for governments to provide additional funding but it is a necessary means; we have cruise ships coming here and it is even more critical here because you have your major vessels they are at sea – they stay five miles out. They don’t come to the dock where it would be easier for fire-fighters to board the vessel to fight the fire.”

 

The Symposium continues on Thursday with a live simulation by the Fire Department. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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