By Shermain Bique-Charles
When 74-year-old Hilton Floyd, of Sea View Farm, perished in a fire on April 29 many believed that his life could have been saved if he had a smoke detector or an emergency exit in his wooden home.
Floyd was an amputee who used a wheelchair to move around, and his situation has caused the Antigua and Barbuda Association of Persons with Disabilities (ABAPD) to embark on a drive to equip all disabled homes with fire detectors.
“This is a real concern. Just last week a disabled man burnt to death because of a fire. We are concerned about how these fires are affecting disabled people, especially those with one limb and cannot move around properly to escape a blaze,” ABAPD president Bernard Warner said.
Warner told Observer that over 40 smoke detectors have been purchased for the disabled, and distributions have already begun.
“The association must do all it can to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself,” he maintained.
Warner further explained that many disabled members are either physically challenged, paralysed or are amputees.
“Some have various disabilities that would some way impair them from exiting a house as [able-bodied] people do. We believe that these smoke detectors can help them,” he added, saying that no home should be without the devices, far less those who cannot move around without added support.
“We are in the fire season and a fire can happen anytime. People are home. There’s a lot of cooking. Things do happen. We are staying ahead of the game and helping our members,” he declared.
The smoke detectors, which were donated by members of a local call centre, were distributed to disabled people in various communities across Antigua.
Meanwhile, Warner is calling for an assessment of the homes where persons living with disabilities reside.
He believes that most of them are living in homes that are conducive to disasters, and also lack proper escape options during a catastrophe.