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No fire inspection at NAPA

By Andre Bagoo Tuesday, July 22 2014

WHILE Minister of Arts and Multi-Culturalism Dr Lincoln Douglas this month told Parliament that the much-used National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) was subject to fire services inspection every three months, Fire Service officials yesterday said the last time the facility had been inspected was actually two years ago.

The NAPA is located on a natural-gas line and has been the subject of concerns over its quality of construction and fire safety.

In response to queries posed by Independent Senator, Anthony Vieira, during Senate Question Time on July 8, Douglas told Parliament inspections took place regularly.

“Some formal inspections are conducted using the relevant authority in addition to major maintenance requirements. They are as follows: the fire services inspection, this is conducted every three months,” Douglas said. He added, “inspection of the natural gas line by the National Gas Company, this happened on April 2014; monthly health and safety inspections and monthly inspection of the elevators are done.”

The Minister also stated a “safety committee” was formed, only in 2013, in relation to the facility, which first opened in 2009. He said the State was still in the process of working out the details of which agencies are in charge of what aspects of the facility.

However, Leo Joseph, the head of the Fire Prevention Department of the Fire Service which is charged with fire inspections nationally, yesterday said the last inspection was done two years ago.

“The last one was two years ago,” Joseph said, when asked by Newsday when the last fire inspection of NAPA took place. Asked if inspections were conducted every three months, he said, “no.” Joseph suggested that at the last inspection two years ago, key aspects of the fire safety plan were still outstanding.

“We will normally do a walk-through and make sure everything is in place,” he said. “When we did it all they needed was an evacuation plan and some more fire extinguishers. They would have done that two years ago.” No subsequent inspection was done.

Joseph noted there was a procedure for a “goodwill” inspection to be requested by the authority managing a building if changes and modifications to a building has taken place.

“They have a responsibility to request inspection every 24 months,” he said. “That letter has not come in as yet. An inspection can be done. For years that has not been done.”

Chief Fire Officer, Nayar Rampersad, could not say definitively whether or not the building had ever been officially granted fire approval. He said there was currently no legal requirement for quarterly inspections.

“Under the previous Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act an inspection was mandatory every two years,” he said. “Now that is no longer the case. Once it is inspected it’s not inspected again unless a change in use of the building occurs.”

The Chief Fire Officer could not say for certain whether the NAPA had ever received final fire safety certification. Asked if a final certificate was ever granted, Joseph said, “I would not have that information at this time.”

Under the OSH Act, all fire approvals are supposed to be lodged with the Port-of-Spain City Corporation. Checks by Newsday yesterday at City Hall did not yield any records of fire certification of the NAPA. One engineer deferred comment to the office of the Chief Executive Officer.

Another engineer said one should have been granted but was not able to immediately verify this after conducting checks of records. There have been reports that NAPA has had problems with fire alarms. According to one report, on July 11, the alarm was raised at the second floor of the building, provoking an evacuation.

However, the alarm was reportedly confined to the second floor and did not go off in the entire building, nor did a fire curtain come down.

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