MPs reduce staffing requirement for airport firefighters
Legislation to clarify the level of fire coverage at the airport was approved last night in the House of Assembly, reducing the number of firefighters needed on duty from 15 to 12.
Michael Weeks, the Minister of National Security, said the Fire Safety Amendment Act 2023 would make it clear that National Fire Protection Agency Codes did not apply to the air crash and fire service at the airport.
He added that the service at the airport would continue to follow international guidelines as required and the change would not affect the safety of travellers.
Mr Weeks said an audit of the airport fire service carried out last February had found that under the NFPA codes 15 firefighters were needed on duty at the airport to maintain its Category 9 rating.
At the time, the airport had only five firefighters on each shift.
However, Mr Weeks said the Government received a second opinion that the codes only applied to the airport building, not airport operations.
“The only difference was who would be determining how many people it would take per shift,” he said. “It’s really one authority that was saying it would be 15 per shift, and another authority said it would be 12 per shift.”
He said the amendments would clarify that the fire chief has authority over staffing at the airport under Overseas Territories Aviation Requirements, which would require 12 men per shift to maintain the Category 9 rating.
“The NFPA codes were never intended to apply to operations at the airport, so this amendment is simply giving the fire chief the authority to have jurisdiction over the airport and NFPA will still have jurisdiction over the building,” he explained.
The changes came after extra firefighters had to be brought to the island from Canada last summer to keep numbers up to requirements.
Some of the 19 overseas firefighters hired to supplement the airport fire service will remain after March 31 – but Mr Weeks said the Government was advertising to fill more posts in Bermuda’s fire service.
Eleven new local firefighters have already been taken on for training, with ten receiving training in the UK.