Evacuation plan, emergency checklists developed for Childcare facilities in wake of 2016 Drop-in Centre fire
Close to ten months after a fire at the Children’s Drop-in Centre on Hadfield Street, Wortmanville, Georgetown claimed the lives of two children, an Evacuation Plan and Emergency Checklists for the Ministry of Social Protection’s institutions has been developed.
According to the Ministry of the Presidency, the plan was done by the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), with financial support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The Mahaica Children’s Home was used as the pilot for development of the plan and checklists; however, these can be used, with minor adjustments, to suit the other care facilities registered with the Ministry. As part of the project, emergency equipment such as fire blankets, fire extinguishers, flashlights and first aid kits were purchased and handed over to the Mahaica Children’s Home and the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA).
Brigadier (retired) Jullian B. Lovell, the consultant on the project, met with representatives of the CPA and the Mahaica Children’s Home. He also conducted site visits to the Mahaica Children’s Home and held orientation sessions with representatives from the CPA, CDC, the Ministry and private care facilities registered with the Ministry.
A fire on July 8, 2016, claimed the lives of 6-year-old Antonio and 2-year-old Joshua George. The children were taken into state care two days before the fire, along with three other siblings: a scenario which saw the government facing several criticisms about the state of the facilities and the lack of emergency evacuation plan.
A Commission of Inquiry (CoI) which was subsequently launched into the incident found that the fire was triggered by a defective electrical point with exposed wires on the eastern wall of the girls’ dormitory. It was also noted that the Drop-In-Centre was not in compliance with fire regulations; failing to have fire escapes, extinguishers, and fire blankets among other emergency requirements.
The CoI recommended that the Social Protection Ministry must focus on improving the child care system which calls for a holistic restructuring and providing responsible and effective child care at all levels, taking into consideration the sensitive nature of cases that expose children to neglect and other forms of mistreatment.