A Barbados firefighting detachment appears to be in hot water and a surveillance officer has been sent on leave after refusing to respond to a COVID-19 emergency, on the grounds that he was not sufficiently trained or equipped with the necessary protective equipment.
Fire Chief Errol Maynard and Barbados Fire Service Association President Corey Bridgeman have separately confirmed the incident while declining to share details.
Barbados TODAY However, investigations have revealed that controversy surrounds four firefighters attached to the Arch Hall fire station who, on Monday, were given instructions to help transfer a 300-pound woman presumed COVID-positive to a St Lucy’s address in an ambulance.
In response to a request from a senior fire officer, Arch Hall’s supervising officer reportedly said he was uncomfortable leading the mission as there was not enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to adequately protect them against infection.
âAll there was in there was the white suit. No disposable gloves, no masks, no face shield. The supervisor told the officer he was untrained and the other thing is this was the guy’s second day back to work after testing positive for COVID-19, âthe source said. in Barbados TODAY.
The official explained that while some officers specially trained as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) are typically called upon to perform such missions, none of the four on duty falls into this category. In fact, the source claimed that a Department of Health and Welfare official indicated that officials at the Harrison Point isolation facility would be best equipped to handle the case.
Nonetheless, the source explained that an acting division officer informed firefighters that they had to attend the scene. After phone calls on the matter, an acting station officer, accompanied by a policeman and a soldier, whom they learned was a captain, arrived. After attempts to persuade the men failed, the senior fire officer gave a direct order to the men to complete the mission. In response, the crew declared themselves ill and returned home.
Days later, the surveillance officer was informed that an investigation was underway into the incident and was asked to take personal leave pending the outcome of the investigation, according to the source.
Barbados TODAY understands that for paramilitary organizations such as firefighters, disobedience to a lawful order is considered a serious offense and as such military or paramilitary officers are generally encouraged to âact and then complainâ.
“But you cannot act in this situation and then file a complaint, because it is your health that you are talking about,” said the source who was sensitive to the plight of the police.
âThis thing is downright unfair. They teach you in the fire department that you should not try to do a particular job if you are not comfortable. If you’re going to a well, it’s not because an officer has been told to go … and if you’re not comfortable with heights, you can’t send a man on the heights.
“So if you don’t have the protective gear and the protective clothing, you don’t have the face masks, how can you expect your crew to witness an incident like this?” added the source.
Contacted, the fire chief said: âI am aware of a case in which officers disobeyed instructions given to them and it is an internal matter. At this point, I wouldn’t want to comment.
The president of the Fire Service Association confirmed that he was also aware of the situation under investigation, but was not yet able to discuss the details.
âI can’t comment on the situation at this time,â Bridgeman said.
Barbados TODAY understands that on Tuesday, the day after the incident, officers at Arch Hall Fire Station began receiving training to help them don PPE and other COVID-19 issues. [emailÂ protected]