Nineteen years ago, Shanna Griffith and Pearl Cornelius were not in the mind of anyone on this earth, but they were in the mind of God. Before they were conceived, building professionals in Barbados were preparing to protect them. Our draft national building code was published in 1991 for comment, and I visited the Barbados National Standards Institute in Culloden Road and obtained a free copy.
The 1992 edition of Barbados’ national building standards was published in the same year that Shanna and Pearl were born. By that time, Tiffany Harding, Nikita Belgrave and Kelly-Ann Welch were in primary school in Barbados and Kellisha Olliviere is assumed to have been in primary school in her native St Vincent.
By the time Shanna and Pearl were one year old, the 1993 edition of the Code was published to be actively used by building designers, contractors, and the Barbados Fire Service. For the past 17 years as Shanna and Pearl attended primary and then secondary school, the Barbados National Building Code had been sold by the Barbados National Standards Institution for $100.
The most voluminous section of the Code is Part 3 – the Fire Safety section. It provides sufficient information to designers of new buildings in Barbados to significantly reduce the risk of harm to occupants from fire. It also provides sufficient authority and information to the Barbados Fire Service to check the fire safety of existing buildings in Barbados in order to significantly reduce the risk of harm to occupants from fire.
Of course, I expect to hear the tired excuses that it is still a draft document, and that it is not formally part of the Laws of Barbados. Let me re-confirm that the 1993 edition of the Barbados National Building Code is not in draft form, but has been sold as a final document for use by building designers, contractors, and regulators for the past 17 years. Just because successive administrations have not enforced the Building Code does not relieve designers, builders, and regulators from their responsibilities of using it.
The criminal act that resulted in mass casualties in Barbados last Friday night is shocking. Also shocking are the reported statements by the Chief Fire Officer about a draft building code, and by the Attorney General about hanging. If the Barbados Fire Service has neglected to use the Barbados National Building Code to ensure that buildings are safe for occupants, because of their mistaken belief that it is still in a draft form, then that is exacerbating. If this does not qualify as a hanging offence, then what will?