A four per cent increase in prank calls to the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) in 2022 has spurred concern from Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Desmond McKenzie, who has once again called for an end to the practice.
During his presentation in the 2023/24 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on May 30, McKenzie said that while the efforts of the JFB are to be applauded, the malicious false alarms are “serious areas of concerns”.
The Minister informed that a total of 1,220 prank calls were received last year by the entity.
“The country needs to realise that when you do things like this, we burn gas, lives are at stake, property is at stake, and at the end of the day, people are left suffering,” McKenzie said.
In the meantime, the Minister also reported that in the last financial year, an additional 188 recruits joined the Brigade as fully-fledged firefighters, with their areas of speciality including Nuclear and Radiation Emergencies, Water Rescue, Electric Hybrid Motor Vehicle Response, and Emergency Medical Technician Training.
In addition, more than 80 of the applicants for the job of firefighter, in the last financial year, have first degrees and associate degrees in disciplines ranging from Electrical Engineering to Environmental Studies.
Minister McKenzie also pointed out that women make up 13 per cent of firefighters, and this is projected to increase based on the application figures.
He said that this places Jamaica above developed countries, such as the United States and Canada, where five per cent and 4.5 per cent, respectively, of all firefighters are females.
Moreover, the Minister noted that over the last two years, a “modern system of support” has been put in place for firefighters, which includes a full package of life and health insurance.
This also addresses accident support, including specific payments for injuries such as loss of limbs and eyesight, and psychological support and is being provided at an annual cost of $500 million.
“It is our commitment to modernise our institutions of public service. The Jamaica Fire Brigade is one of the most important of those institutions,” he said.