There was a rush for safety at the head office of the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL) in Accra in the early office hours of Friday following the sounding of a siren that signalled that there was an outbreak of fire.
The rush, however, was not accompanied by any chaotic scenes. Even though staff members who occupied offices on the upper floors of the Graphic building rushed out, they did so in a rather orderly manner to join their colleagues at the lower levels of the office complex to exit to the assembly point through the designated emergency fire exits.
In a matter of minutes, the entire staff of the company had gathered at the assembly point, almost all of them asking each other what might have triggered the alarm.
Unknown to them, it was a fire simulation exercise jointly organised by the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) and the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL) to test the preparedness of the staff in the event of a fire outbreak.
Eventually, the confusion and apprehension that had engulfed those gathered was brought to a rest when the District Fire Commander of the Accra Industrial Area, Divisional Officer Osmond Annum, called the gathering to order.
He then announced that what had just occurred was a simulation exercise, also called a fire drill and that the aim was to test the level of preparedness of the staff of the company in the event of a real fire outbreak.
Mr Annum described the exercise as “so successful,” adding that “you all did very well and need to clap for yourselves.”
The success of the exercise notwithstanding, he pointed out that there were a few lapses as some staff wanted to go back to their offices to collect their phones and bags, while others wanted to drive their cars out.
He added that if it had been a real fire situation, “you could have been trapped there. There is no point in staying in the building when you hear the siren. No matter what, the moment you hear it, you must vacate.”
Mr Annum further advised that in such instances what was paramount was life and not property. “Please don’t think about your personal property, for your property can be lost but your life cannot be lost,” he emphasised.
The philosophy of fire fighters, he said, was to summarily take the utmost risk to save lives at the expense of property because of the overriding importance of human lives compared to property.
Meanwhile, he advised all institutions to ensure that fire hydrants in their areas of operation worked and were accessible, to save human lives in the event of a fire outbreak.
To that end, he intimated that the Ghana National Fire Service would be conducting fire audits of all public institutions to ensure their state of readiness and compliance with the laws governing fire safety.
The Head of the Safety, Health, Environment and Quality (SHEQ) management team at the GCGL, Mrs Peace Gadogbe, expressed appreciation to the staff of the company for making the right responses in the unanticipated exercise.
She stressed the need for them to be proactive to health, safety and environmental quality concerns always and encouraged them to also report any infringements on those qualities to her office for immediate redress.
The occasion was also used to showcase ‘Cold Fire’ a state-of-the-art fire-fighting mechanism built on organic materials, to the GCGL staff.
The Marketing Manager of Afritech Solutions, Mr Israel Saeed Kofi Sam, who led the experimentation, stressed the need for every home to arm itself against an outbreak of fire, adding that the system had so far proven to be very useful.
Afritech Solutions are the lead marketers of the ‘Cold Fire’ mechanism.