Be mindful of fire safety, especially now – Fire Chief Gentle

– uncertified electrical instalments, burning garbage among fire factors

With the Christmas season in full swing, Fire Chief, Mr. Marlon Gentle is advising the public to be mindful of fire safety, as it is one of the simplest ways to prevent fires.

While wishing everyone a jovial holiday, Mr. Gentle says Christmas decorations should not obstruct any fire exit.

“Decorations should not be near heat-generating appliances. Drop cords should not be passed under carpets or near blinds and do not impede your means of escaping a building,” he said during an interview with Big Smith News Watch.

The Fire Chief noted that overloading electrical outlets goes against fire safety.

Overloading leads to overheating and short circuiting, and subsequently, fire.

Fire Chief, Mr. Marlon Gentle

“The rule is that there should not be more than two appliances to every point. If appliances are used for heat-generating purposes like microwaves, those should not be shared with any other appliances,” Mr. Gentle said.

Appliances should be switched off and unplugged when not in use.

Another aspect of the festive season is the shopping fever. Whether it is a gift or for personal use, consumers purchase and upgrade many household electrical appliances.

A statement by the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) has advised persons to ensure their appliances have certification marks – which can be found at the back of the appliance, and indicates that the product has been tested and meets safety and quality requirements for effective and safe usage.

Some certification marks include: UL, CE, CSA, NOM and CCC.

GNBS also advised consumers to ensure purchased household appliances are in keeping with their houses’ electrical requirements.

“Ensure that the appliance has the correct voltage (110 or 220 volts). If you purchase any high voltage appliance, you must have a higher voltage electrical line installed.”

This instalment must be conducted by a certified electrician.

Fire Chief Gentle relayed electrical instalments being done by uncertified persons and not in keeping with the Government Electrical Inspectorate (GEI) department’s standards are among the main contributors to fires.  

GEI’s Chief Electrical Inspector, Mr. Roland Barclay, said the nation’s electrical sector is managed by the Electrical Technical Standards Regulations.

This regulation has established guidelines on who can conduct electrical installations, and also ensures safe electrical instalments to reduce fires.

“The lawful act is the Electricity Technical Standards Regulations, which every electrical contractor or any aspiring electrician should have in their possession,” Mr. Barclay said.

The National Electrical Code (NEC) of the United States also forms part of Guyana’s Electricity Technical Standards Regulation, which lays out the foundation for electrical safety and all electrical work locally.

Mr. Barclay said electrical fires could be prevented once the NEC guidelines are followed.

Chief Electrical Inspector at GEI, Mr. Roland Barclay

“You must use proper materials because not using proper materials is the main cause of fires…We work in collaboration with GNBS and the Competition and Consumer Affairs Commission to implement and enforce the electrical standards,” he said.

Citizens should not allow electricians without a permit from GEI to conduct any installation.

Fire Chief Gentle reiterated the Chief Electrical Inspector’s statement, and implored persons to act responsibly.

“The public, business owners and persons using and renting buildings all have a role to play because most times, investigations reveal that there are simple things that cause fires like failing to adhere to established practices – either using equipment against its purpose or exceeding the limit of operation for the equipment,” he said.

While the Guyana Fire Service has seen a decrease in persons tampering with electricity, persons using fire for land clearing and garbage disposal have been linked to an increase in deliberate fires.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils are among organisations responsible for proper garbage disposal.

Senior Environmental Officer and Head of the Industry and Waste Management Programme at EPA, Ms. Odessa Duncan, said that EPA only approves and endorses waste disposal by utilising disposal services.

Senior Environmental Officer and Head of the Industry and Waste Management Programme at EPA, Ms. Odessa Duncan

“With disposal services we have day-by-day control. We do not recommend burning nor burying, because burying can [negatively] impact the ground and service waters,” she said.

Cevons Waste Management and Puran Brothers Inc. are among disposal services that are responsible for carrying waste to EPA-approved landfills.

EPA’s Senior Environmental Officer to the Technical Services Department at the Environmental Protection Agency, Ms. Tashana Redmond, said that burning waste should be reduced.

Senior Environmental Officer attached to the Technical Services Department at EPA, Ms. Tashana Redmond

“EPA advises against the burning of garbage and using alternative methods, primarily the use of Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) and private service providers…who will take the garbage to an authorised landfill,” Ms. Redmond explained.

NDCs are responsible for waste removal at the community level, while EPA’s role is to regulate that service to ensure proper waste disposal. 

Fire Chief Gentle has also advised the public to work with the NDCs for proper disposal procedures. The Fire Service has recorded nine fire-related deaths compared to ten last year, a decrease in children playing with matches by five per cent, a reduction in persons tampering with electricity, and a decline in buildings on fire.