Clearing the air

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Barbados will soon have new guidelines for a national emergency protocol, Minister of the Environment Trevor Prescod has revealed.

The guidelines are among policy decisions emerging from Wednesday’s massive landfill fire at the Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre (SBRC).

Prescod, who said he hardly slept over the past 72 hours of the raging blaze, told reporters on Friday that in the coming days he is to meet with the SBRC and the Sanitation Services Authority (SSA) in order to formulate an updated policy.

He explained that one of the challenges experienced on the first day of the three-day blaze at the Vaucluse, St Thomas landfill, was the lack of a formal structure and everybody pitching to “do what they want to do”.

Prescod said: “What we have to do and what we already agreed to do is to have a meeting with a number of the relevant partners.

“We are going to have discussions on some of the challenges that we faced, elements that probably led to the causality and gave rise to what we had to fight with, and even personnel issues and the manner in which we manage crisis of that kind.

“It is our intention now to have a protocol and that protocol will be based on the discussions with the various parties.

He told journalists at UN House that the new protocol would put the island in a better position to better manage such conditions in the future.

“On occasions of that type the Chief Fire Officer is the central figure that must coordinate, direct, manage and bring some level of understanding to those persons who believe they can do what they want to do.

“Every now and then we have amendments in laws and regulations. We even make adjustments to our writing styles in order to become more effective.

“I am not saying there are no guidelines that existed before [but] I am sure that as soon as the Prime Minister comes back we will have that meeting and we will have some fairly rigid guidelines to go forward.”

The fire was finally contained by 5:30 on Thursday evening and garbage collectors were once again allowed to take their refuse to the location on Friday.

But before the smoke could be fully smothered, residents downwind of the smoke in Arch Hall and Bennetts, St Thomas called for greater level of care and consideration by those operating landfills nearby.

But Prescod said that during the initial phase of the incident, the Ministry of Health had made special provisions for those affected by the smoke.

He told reporters: “Arrangements were made at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for a smooth passage for those persons who had asthmatic attacks.

“If it was that severe that they could not leave home, arrangements were made for individuals from the Ministry of Health to go to the rescue of these persons.”

Polyclinics were also notified, where a similar procedure to that of the QEH was applied, he added.

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