The Newsletter of the Jamaica Fire Brigade
EMTs in hospital!
Emergency Medical Technicians who started training at the UWI went into the second phase of their training by completing hands-on practice at various hospitals island-wide. Participating hospitals were the Kingston Public, Cornwall Regional and Spanish Town hospitals. A formal graduation ceremony will be held later.
Condolences to New York Firefighters
In the wake of the terrorist bombing and subsequent collapse of the World Trade Centre in New York on 11 September 2001, the Jamaica Fire Brigade has written to the Commissioner of the New York Fire Department, Thomas Von Essen, expressing condolence on the passing of over 300 firefighters including the Deputy Commissioner and other senior officers.
The letter, over the signature of the Deputy Commissioner in charge of Operations, Frederick Whyte, stated in part "We in the firefighting fraternity well recognize and accept the risks associated with our profession but the loss is felt more so when one considers the circumstances surrounding the death of these Firefighters".
New thrust in Computerization
Various Departments and Divisional Headquarters have recently been equipped with computers as part of the Brigade's ongoing programme. The Fire Prevention Division, St. Catherine Divisional Headquarters and the Training Department are amongst those that have benefitted. Ultimately it will be possible to quickly share operational information form a central database, and allow for the application for and approval of benefits such as leave online. Let us hope the exercise continues without delays as the Fire Brigade strives to improve its efficiency.
Cellular technology for the Brigade
The Brigade has gone to another dimension in communications technology with the introduction of mobile cellular phones for those Divisions and appliances without radio communications. The decision to utilize this method of communication was taken after a thorough examination of the options available in light of the decline of the existing network.
The cellular network that has been established is basically a number of mobile telephones pre-programmed with a set of numbers that allow for voice communication between the appliances and stations within a Division. Messages are transmitted using standard message format and existing call signs. Tests have proven the system to be reliable.
Phase one of the project has been implemented in St. Thomas, Portland, St. Mary and St. Ann. The next phase of the project will target St. James, Westmoreland, Hanover and Trelawny. This cellular network is an interim one until a state of the art radio network is established.
Gifts for Portland Division
The Portland Division recently received a gift of twenty five thousand dollars ($25,000.00) from Kris N Charles Financial Services Limited to assist with repairs to the utility vehicle 1-15P. The vehicle which had been out of service for two (2) years has been repaired and is back in service.
The Division's good fortune continued on Thursday 18th October when Cable and Wireless Jamaica presented two Nokia Cellular Phones to boost the communication capability in the Division. The phones were presented by Mr. Errol Miller Public Relations Officer for Cable and Wireless to Divisional Head Leonard Anderson and Fire Prevention Officer for the parish Marcia Harris.
Orientation of new members necessary
The Jamaica Fire Brigade will on December 15, 2001 graduate another batch of recruits. These graduates will be placed mainly in the Kingston and St. Andrew, St. James and Westmoreland Divisions.
There has been a tendency in recent times where the seasoned firefighters treat probationers as if they are full-fledged firefighters, and expect them to perform at optimum efficiency, without having provided a proper orientation or the necessary additional hands-on training.
Many have been the complaints that "the recruits are no good". But the experienced Officers, Sub-officers and Senior Firefighters must remember that probationers will become the firefighters they allow them to be. They should remember that the training period of three (3) months is not adequate to make firefighters of anyone, especially when the basic course is predominantly drills and theoretical materials, because of a lack of proper simulation facilities.
After all, we all recognize that it takes an extraordinary person to become a superb firefighter and this is why the probationary period was devised "to determine whether a person is fit both mentally and physically to be a firefighter". This determination can only be made if the necessary assistance/guidance is given and, when appropriate, standards are applied.
Therefore, I call on all members of staff to take the recruits under your wings. Be firm but not abusive. Pass on to them the knowledge and skills you have learnt from your practical experience. Brigade Headquarters will do everything to ensure that the necessary information is at hand for your assistance.
- Frederick Whyte
A call for In-service Training
There are a number of skills which, once acquired, you do not need to continue practicing to be proficient. The saying 'once you learn it you never forget how' applies in those circumstances. Firefighting, however, is not one of those skills. When a firefighter is trained and masters his or her skills but does not use those skills in an actual fire-ground situation for a long time he suffers from 'skill degradation'. This is a serious problem which jeopardizes the safety of the firefighter as well as other members of the team and the citizens he serves.
It is usually this firefighter who suffers from 'skill degradation' who practices acts like recklessly entering a burning building with no consideration for safety.
Firefighting is an exacting science which requires firefighters to understand fire behavior as well as to develop a solid foundation of practical skills. These skills are the 'tools' in the firefighter's 'toolbox'. It is the combination of knowledge and skills that will enable the firefighter to efficiently, effectively and safely perform his or her duties.
Each firefighter should carry in his or her 'toolbox' an array of skills ranging from the most basic to the most advanced; and these should be skills which are constantly upgraded. The firefighter who has not ventilated a roof for ten years and suddenly finds himself in a situation where he must do so is not adequately prepared because his ventilation skills have deteriorated in ten years. He has not only become out of practice but may not be exposed to new methodologies that may have been introduced and new tools which may have been invented to assist him to perform the job differently.
In- service training is therefore a necessity enabling the firefighter to develop and practice his skills. It is during this training that he will discover facilities and potential incidents which were not there before. Depending upon the occupancies, building and types of industries he or she may be forced to perform confined space rescues, hazardous materials responses, high rise building evacuations and /or any number of skills that may after initial training become a requirement for efficient/effective firefighting.
In order to keep abreast of and be prepared for the special circumstances the firefighter may discover for him/herself, in day to day responses that it is crucial that he/she develop the knowledge and skills required and maintain his/her level of proficiency by performing those skills on a regular basis.
It is not enough for firefighters to simply learn how to do something once and then not ever be measured again as to how they have retained their skills and whether they still have the ability to perform them. There are a number of ways through which this measuring can occur but any one used will encourage or force firefighter to practice and maintain their skills.
It is given that if firefighter skills are not used or at least practiced regularly and consistently the ability to perform is lessened. If you are a firefighter please remember that you were taught for a reason. Even if you have not used the skills in a long while (or you have never used it in the field) don't assume the need for it won't arise, because you can be sure it will. When the situation arises it is not the time to discover that your skills have been degraded. Learn the skills, keep them current.....but shouldn't I ask the authorities to make this possible?
- Lynden Mattocks
Fire Brigade Week - Biggest Yet!
Fire Safety Awareness Week celebrated between 21-27 October this year under the theme "Fire costs ...No room for error!" by all indications has been the biggest and best supported to date. Chief Fire Prevention Officer Assistant Commissioner Mattocks attributed this to the creativity of the personnel who planned the activities to interact with the public, and also the fact that there was extensive print and electronic media coverage. Even community based Cable Networks were utilized this year for wider dissemination of information.
The week began with a National Church Service at the Power of Faith Ministries in St. Catherine. Worshipers included Custos of St. Catherine, Honourable Gladstone Lewars, Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Honourable Arnold Bertram, Commissioner of Police, Francis Forbes, His Excellency Isao Otsuka, Japanese Ambassador and Nigerian Ambassador, Udeokord Lawrence and his wife. Welcome was made by Superintendent D. Lewis (KSA Division) and the Brigade's Commissioner eloquently stated the need for closer interaction between the Brigade and members of the public to aid in the prevention and mitigation of Fires.
The weekended with a well attended Firefighters Ball at the Caribbean Showplace in Ironshore, Montego Bay. Four persons received Citation and Awards at this function. Recent retirees George Pinnock, William Cyrus (KSA Division) and Berton Longmore (St. James Division)received awards for outstanding service during their tenure, while Senior Deputy for thirty eight years continued service.
Following the awards Brigade members and other patrons danced into the wee hours of the morning.
The method for the calculation of the MEAL and TAXI allowance has been a long-standing question in the minds of many firefighters who have been praying for enlightenment on this important issue. At long last, enlightenment is here.
The calculation is quite simple in fact. Let us look first at the calculation of the MEAL ALLOWANCE. This allowance is calculated on a per occasion basis. In other words, every time you are at work on the 3-10 and 10-7 shifts, including overtime done on these shifts, you are entitled to one meal per occasion. Simply tally the occasions worked on the 3-10 and the 10-7 shifts them multiply the result by the current rate. This should give you the dollar amount for the Meal Allowance..
Let us look at the TAXI allowance. This is done in the same manner as for the Meal allowance. The exception to this is that once OVERTIME is done on the 10-7 shift NO TAXI allowance is paid as the person would not have left the Station. Total all work done on the 3-10 and 10-7 regular time and the 3-10 overtime. Total all the 10-7 work done in the overtime section, subtract this answer from previous total. Multiply the result by the current rate. (Currently the rate for the MEAL and TAXI allowance is the same)
In the next Firebreak we look at "POWERS OF ARREST" as it relates to the Fire Brigade.
- Horace Thomas
NAFO changes leadership
The National Association of Fire Officers held its Annual General Meeting and election of officers on Saturday 24th November 2001 at the New Testament Church of God Auditorium in Mandeville.
The meeting which got off to a very late start was initially chequered with administrative problems, causing the suspension of the standing orders to allow the meeting to proceed.
The election of officers resulted in some significant changes. Senior Deputy Superintendent Denzil Kerr was elected President, while Asst. Supt Samuel McIntosh and District Officer Walters were elected 1st and 2nd Vice Presidents respectively. Deputy Superintendent Philson Pryce was returned as General Secretary and will now be assisted by District Officer Egunie Palmer. District Officer Lannie Sinclair was returned as Treasurer. Firebreak congratulates all the new and re-elected officers.
Promotion exams imminent
Promotion examinations for the ranks of Lance Corporal, Corporal and District Officer will be conducted early in February 2002. This in part is due to requests from the Unions for a longer preparation period for their members.
At present the syllabus has been distributed to all Divisions along with relevant students notes. While the format of the examinations remains the same, candidates (especially Sergeants and Corporals) can expect a change in content to reflect more of the leadership role they will eventually assume. Prospective candidates are reminded that they must apply in writing to sit the examinations.
When called to service near or far he's always ready to shine as a star. In difficult places he's sometimes sent and over casualties he's usually bent. In any case of emergency he approaches the scene with bravery. With skillful hands and balanced mind it's always said "He was just on time".When all is well, without a flame, the firefighter packs and makes no claim returns to base, re-sign his name and prepares to be called again.
- Louiston Gooden
This is the final issue of Firebreak for this year. We thank you for your support, good wishes, articles and commentary and look forward to your continued support in the coming year. Remember we need your short stories, articles, jokes and news highlights.
In the New Year we propose some changes to the format of the newsletter to provide more entertainment by the inclusion of puzzles, graphics and competitions as well as a feature article on a different Fire Station in each issue. We will however maintain the bi-monthly production.
Let me use the opportunity to wish each member God speed during the Holiday Season and best wishes for the New Year.
Firebreak extends condolences to the following members who recently lost loved ones:
Marcia Nelson - sister
John Campbell - mother
Thought for Today
You can only be young once, but you can be immature forever.
Thanks to Garfield Blair, Ian Atkinson, Carol Wilmot, Tamika Christian, Horace Thomas, Angella Thompson, Julian Davis, Beverley Reid, Winston Davis and all the other persons whose help and advice contributed to the production of this issue of Firebreak.