Topic: Building Services
On Thursday 14 March 2013, I had to divert from my usual morning commute to work due to the fire at the Wyndham Kingston Hotel. So said, I will now comment on your editorial titled: “Wyndham Should Warn Others” as published in your Saturday, 16 March 2013, edition. Wyndham should warn of more than you mentioned.
Firstly, I support your advise that “the tragedy should serve as a wake-up call for all of corporate Jamaica to ensure that their emergency/disaster plans are fine tuned and tested and ready for roll-out”. However, the difficulty of guests finding the assembly point is the only such occurrence of inadequacy reported of the emergency/disaster plan. But, there were a number of failures of the building services: namely, poor lighting of the means of escape and smoke-filled stairwell. From this perspective, the comments of the Director of Tourism Mr. John Lynch takes on new significance. I doubt the comments were meant purely of aesthetic concerns.
Emergency lighting and exit signs should have been fully functional in the means of escape, and the ventilation system should have pressurized the stairwell to blow smoke away from it. The fact that the smoke even got into the stairwell is itself troubling from the stand point that the areas of extensive damage are not directly connected to the stairwell. To fully comprehend the importance of smoke management, it should be understood that it is smoke, and not fire, that is the major cause of death during fires. Otherwise, the lack of an automatic sprinkler system is not a concern under most cases where adequate provision has been made for manual means of extinguishing fires: such as fire extinguishers and wet-rise fire hoses.
Finally, you also mentioned the malfunctioning of the hydraulic platform used by the Fire Department. This made it even more difficult for the Fire Department to reach the area from which the smoke was emanating. So, kudos is due to our fire service who worked under difficult conditions, failing mechanical systems, and personal injury to bring the fire under control. They were still present on the site that evening as I returned from work.