Kamla: Put Emergency Plans in Place…

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By Prior Beharry

OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is calling for emergency and evacuation plans to be put in place in Trinidad and Tobago after the school fire in Guyana that claimed the lives of 19 children.

In a release on Thursday, she said the entire CARICOM region was plunged into mourning following the deaths of 18 girls and a five-year-old boy in a fire at the Mahdia Secondary School in Guyana.

She said of the 19 victims, 14 died in the building, five died at the Mahdia district hospital and one died on the way to a hospital in Georgetown. According to news reports, firefighters were able to rescue some students by breaking holes in the wall of the building, she added.

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Persad-Bissessar said, “In April 2023 Kemba Morris and her eight-year-old daughter Zaya were unable to escape a fire at their home. The mother and child were trapped inside the kitchen of their home at Quinam Road, which is located in Siparia. However, Kemba Morris had managed to save her sister Dana Phillip and her two older children but died when the flames prevented her from escaping with her little girl.


“As a parent myself, I can only imagine the pain and grief that the families of these children and Kemba are feeling. We in Trinidad and Tobago must learn from these tragedies and must move to prevent any similar occurrence.”

She called for the following:

  1. Carry out a fire safety and security assessment of all children’s homes, juvenile detention facilities, retirement homes and homes for the elderly.
  2. Upgrade any state-owned or state-financed facility to meet the necessary fire safety and security standards.
  3. Cause similar upgrades to be implemented at all similar privately run facilities.
  4. Conduct fire safety and security assessments for all schools.
  5. Upgrade all schools to meet necessary fire safety and security standards.
  6. Develop and implement emergency and evacuation procedures that are specific for all schools, children’s homes, juvenile detention facilities, retirement homes and homes for the elderly.
  7. Immediately conduct training with all staff at these places to handle emergencies for a limited period until the protective services arrive on site.
  8. Practice mandatory emergency and evacuation drills in all schools at least twice per school term and at least 3 times per year in the other facilities.

Persad-Bissessar said, “In addition, I call on private citizens to also develop and implement similar procedures and plans in their businesses and homes. Even the most basic emergency and evacuation plan, if well-rehearsed, can save your own life or your loved ones. Plans, preparation and practice will save lives and prevent tragedy.”


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