Night­club night­mare looms as clubs pose fire hazard

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Jo­van John­son Staff Re­porter jo­van.john­son@glean­erjm.com

HUN­DREDS OF pa­trons who flock night­clubs in Manch­ester are be­ing warned that they put their lives at risk each time they en­ter the build­ings.

Ad­dress­ing a Gleaner Jobs and Growth Fo­rum last week, Ro­han Powell, act­ing deputy su­per­in­ten­dent at the Manch­ester Fire Brigade, said many of the clubs are fire haz­ards be­cause en­trances are also ex­its, and his brigade can do lit­tle about it be­cause of the ab­sence of suit­able reg­u­la­tions.

“It’s like ty­ing our hands,” Powell said, not­ing that fire­fight­ers need the reg­u­la­tions un­der the Fire Brigade Act to en­able them to take ac­tion such as shut­ting down clubs.

“Take, for in­stance, grant­ing li­cences to bar owner, to clubs, places where the chance for mass­ca­su­alty events ex­ist. I can use a very good ex­am­ple – Cale­do­nia Mall Plaza. A lot of clubs are there. But these are places that, when you get in them, four per­sons can’t ad­e­quately move in a rush with­out you hav­ing a stam­pede,” he told The Gleaner.

“There’s a night­club I’ve been in­side and I pray they are never hav­ing an event in there and there’s some­thing that peo­ple have to leave, be­cause it’s one way in and one way out. These are dis­as­trous things. We need the power to go in to act to pros­e­cute per­sons, to force per­sons to ad­here to build­ing codes. Our pri­mary goal is sav­ing lives.”

Powell said in the ab­sence of the re­quired reg­u­la­tions, the fire brigade de­pends on the parish coun­cil en­forc­ing leg­is­la­tion that can sup­port their work.

The to­tal num­ber of vi­o­lat­ing clubs is yet to be as­cer­tained.

The Gleaner has sought a re­sponse from Lo­cal Govern­ment Min­is­ter Des­mond McKen­zie to the con­cerns of the fire­fighter.

PLAZAS ALSO A PROB­LEM

Mean­while, the se­nior fire­man said night­clubs are not the only prob­lems, as some plazas are con­structed with­out sep­a­rate ex­its.

“Cale­do­nia is one. Once you go in, it’s a box – one way in, one way out. These are se­ri­ous places. You go in and there’s no exit on the other side if there’s an in­ci­dent on the other side.”

Sally Por­te­ous, cus­tos of Manch­ester and a former deputy mayor of Man­dev­ille, said the vi­o­lat­ing night­clubs should be “shut down”, while plaza op­er­a­tors should be forced to put in sep­a­rate ex­its.

“I can’t re­mem­ber how many night­clubs I closed down. You go in and you tell them ‘your place is un­safe’ and ‘you have so much time where you can rec­tify it’. There should never be a night­club any­where that has one en­trance, one exit.”

Chair­man of the Manch­ester Parish Coun­cil, Brenda Ram­say, said the clubs and plazas will be un­der tighter scru­tiny.

“The ma­jor con­cern for the coun­cil is, when the ap­pli­ca­tions come in for these build­ings, you do not get an ap­pli­ca­tion to say ‘I will be util­is­ing it for this spe­cific pur­pose’, and so even when you ap­prove it, it’s for of­fices. Over time, con­ver­sions do take place. The ap­pli­ca­tions to be­come a club do not come to lo­cal au­thor­ity. I don’t even know if there is a place where [those go]. There are a lot of is­sues that we have been say­ing that we need to ad­dress,” she told The Gleaner.

“For the one exit-en­trance, as long as the space is large enough, I do not think that should pose a prob­lem,” she said of plazas.

On clubs, Ram­say said if they do not put in sep­a­rate ex­its, “then surely clo­sure is the next op­tion”.

POR­TE­OUS

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