GWI clears air on fire-fighting mandate
The Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) has debunked reports that have questioned whether it is fully carrying out its mandate when it comes to its role to aid fire-fighting.
Public Relations Officer, Timothy Austin, recently told this publication that according to the Water and Sewerage Act, 2002, GWI is responsible for the provision of water and the management of the Georgetown Sewerage System.
Moreover, he said that the entity has been ensuring that there is always a sufficient supply of water during fires. There have, however, been numerous questions related to the maintenance of hydrants, some of which have become damaged through vehicular accidents and other means.
Austin pointed to the fact that the Act makes no mention of any responsibilities regarding the country’s fire hydrants.
“GWI’s role does not extend beyond the provision of water as stated in the Act.”
City Hall has also shielded itself from this responsibility with one official yesterday claiming that it was the role of GWI.
However, in October 2009, Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon, in removing blame from GWI, revealed that the care of hydrants was in fact Government’s responsibility. In making the revelation, Dr Luncheon even then questioned the logic of having good hydrants if there is no working water main and vice versa revealing that “it’s a problem that has to be comprehensively addressed as a government undertaking as opposed to casting blame of obligations.”
This was expected to be completely addressed with scheduled repairs to the sewerage system which were reportedly concluded in 2010.
Collaborating with the Fire Service
Austin, in further defending the role of GWI, said that unlike some reports that the water authority has had limited collaboration with the Guyana Fire Service, the water company enjoys a strong partnership with that entity. This, he said, includes a joint-strategy on the correct procedures to follow in the event of a fire as well as joint training and exchanges of expertise.
According to Austin, ‘A Quick Response System’ was developed by the two agencies following a meeting regarding the issue of fire hydrants and the provision of water on October 23, 2009. The system, he noted, is currently active and involves daily checks by the fire service to ensure that GWI’s hotline is operable. “This has been effective in combating several serious fires,” Austin asserted.
In addition, he disclosed that a specially dedicated telephone line was installed by GWI for use by Fire Service officials only.
“The (telephone) line allows the Fire Service to contact the utility at any time (24/7) in the event of a fire,” Austin disclosed, pointing out that calls from the fire service trigger an alarm within GWI’s Shelter-Belt Water Treatment Plant, which alerts operators to make necessary changes in order to provide water at full pressure.
Added to this reportedly effective system, Austin said that the Fire Service was presented with all mobile numbers of key GWI officials who can render urgent assistance in the event of a fire, including GWI’s Director of Operations.
The GWI, through the person of its Divisional Operations Manager, Curtis Niles, is currently part of the Fire Advisory Board, which according to Austin, has regular meetings at the Central Fire Station situated at Stabroek, Georgetown, or at the Ministry of Home Affairs. “This allows for regular interaction between the two agencies, including planning sessions for improved collaboration. In addition, the agencies will continue to work in partnership on joint training activities and exchange of expertise,” Austin said.