JOINT HOME FOR FIRE, AMBULANCE SERVICES ‘MAKES SENSE’; SLIGHT DELAY IN COMPLETION
By Anesta Henry
Minister of Home Affairs Wilfred Abrahams defended the Government’s decision to place the fire and ambulance services together in one complex, as the project manager reported that a 12-week delay in construction will push back completion by two months.
While giving the media an update, on Wednesday, on the $29 million complex which is 30 per cent completed and should be open in May 2024, Abrahams stressed that putting the emergency services in one location made sense as they often worked together.
He explained that the 55 705 square-foot complex located off the Pine North-South Road and adjacent to the Caribbean Examinations Council headquarters was initially to be the new home for the Barbados Fire Service. However, plans were adjusted to include the Barbados Ambulance Service.
“A lot of the serious things that the Fire Service is called out to deal with, including accidents, also involve the Barbados Ambulance Service. As part of the course for the intake of new recruits, the recruits are subjected to first aid training and EMT [Emergency Medical Technician] training, so that’s pretty much a requirement now of all persons coming into the Barbados Fire Service.
“So, as you can see, we are having a closer and closer collaboration between the Barbados Fire Service and the Barbados Ambulance Service. So when we decided that we needed to construct new fire headquarters, the natural thing was to invite the ambulance service if they wished to participate in it or be considered to come aboard,” the Home Affairs Minister said.
Although making it clear that the Barbados Fire Service and Barbados Ambulance Service were not being amalgamated, Abrahams reminded that eventually, Barbadians will be calling one emergency number to reach the fire, ambulance and police services.
Just over a year ago, he had announced that Government was exploring the possibility of having a unified dispatch system for the emergency services.
Project Manager George Holder told members of the media that despite construction work which started last August being delayed by 12 weeks, due to the unavailability of reinforcement bars, the complex should be fully completed by mid-May next year, instead of the originally scheduled March.
“The construction is going well. The contractor is JADA Builders Inc. We have been going fairly smoothly; we have had a few hiccups but nothing major. Generally, we are satisfied with the quality we are getting on the project and we trust that that will continue,” Holder said.
The site consists of a three-storey main building that will house the Bridgetown Fire Station, the Barbados Fire Service Headquarters, and the Emergency Ambulance Service; and a smaller single-storey building providing accommodation for the Fire Prevention Unit of the Fire Service.
The complex will be fully air-conditioned and outfitted with an emergency power system. The roof and electrical systems are being prepared for later installation of a photovoltaic system with minimal disruption to the buildings or the occupants’ operations.
Rainwater will be collected from the roofs of the buildings as well as off the large, paved areas east and west of the main building which are provided for the manoeuvring of emergency vehicles.
The collected, treated rainwater will be available to boost the water needs of the fire tenders.
The building is being fitted with high-performance, hurricane-resistant windows and doors which are cost-effective and would have the added value of deflecting heat and glare, and allowing emergency personnel occupying the building during extreme weather to maintain visual contact with the surrounding exterior environmental conditions.
Minister Abrahams, who, along with other officials, toured the project, said he was generally pleased with the work that has taken place so far.
Acknowledging the supply chain challenges that had affected the project, he said: “From the time we were in a position to get the steel, we prioritised the steel for this project . . . . From the time we were able to get the steel, we went full steam ahead. I am satisfied that the contractors are working as fast as they can. I am satisfied with the reports of the project manager,” he said.
“It is what it is. We don’t create most of the raw materials here in Barbados and if there are supply challenges again, then we will have further delays but these are things that are necessarily outside of our control.”