CBRM’s Fire Prevention Officer has been working for more than three years to encourage Thirders to obey fine lane rules. He has his hands full.
“People don’t realize the risk that is associated with it,” says Stephen MacKenzie. “They think it isn’t a big deal.” But as MacKenzie tells The Third, “There are many factors that are very much hidden if you don’t understand the total function of what a building is supposed to do in the case of an emergency.”
But he admits that even as a firefighter, until coming to the position about three years, he didn’t give it much thought either. “It wasn’t until I went out doing inspections that I really noticed it.” To provide a little context to MacKenzie’s challenge, he shared the success of last Fall’s enforcement campaign with the Cape Breton Regional Police Force. During a four-hour period, two officers handed out 60 tickets for fire lane infractions. Then there is this for context.
MacKenzie told The Third that while doing fire lane inspections in full uniform he has witnessed drivers enter the fire lane, park, and then ask him how he was doing before entering the business and leaving behind their vehicle in the fire lane. That isn’t as bad as it gets for him, unfortunately. “I couldn’t tell you how many times I received threats while in my uniform for asking people politely to leave the fire lane. Not issuing a ticket, just asking them to leave.” And while The Third was out snapping pics for this story, we had no trouble finding clogged fire lanes. Not once did we need to wait for an offender; they were always parked and smiling pretty for us. In fact, we watched one vehicle bob and weave to get between barriers, shopping carts, and shoppers only to sit in the fire lane and smoke a cigarette.
MacKenzie emphasizes that although it is the drivers who are breaking the law, business owners have a responsibility to enforce their fire lanes. When businesses do not take the time to do this, their businesses and those in them are put in increased danger. “The specific spot you are in could potentially impede someone from responding to an emergency, whether it be for fire; police; or ambulance,” he says. “It isn’t just fire that we are concerned about with these lanes. They are lanes used for ambulances and police when they need to get into a location quickly.” He notes that in the case of firefighters, “There are connections that the fire department has to get to in the case of a fire. There are fire alarm panels that we need to access.” He adds that large structures, like malls, have many exits on all sides so there are many exit points that must be clear to avoid being trapped by parked vehicles in a fire lane. However, MacKenzie notes that most businesses have taken the appropriate steps to manage their fire lines. No-parking signs; marked fire lanes; large, neon, concrete barriers; security guards and cones are all examples of actions business owners are taking to make their businesses safe for their customers.
“I cannot enforce on the building owners when they are already doing everything that they can to stop people from parking there and people are still parking there,” he says. “That’s when we took the next step to create the initiative to increase enforcement, increase awareness, and try to curb the problem.” “Part of our plan is to increase the amount of enforcement.
Currently, police do the main enforcing, the plan is to get more people and more departments involved so that they also have the ability to enforce and impose fines.” The Third is told that role will fall to CBRM prevention officers when the initiative gets approval. Other aspects of the initiative have included our firefighters taking to the airwaves to educate us about the dangers of parking in fire lanes. They have also had media campaigns hoping that their messages would alter the parking behavior of Thirders. They are still working on initiatives.
But, maybe we’re just a bunch of rule-breakers.
Growing Pains is a feature that will appear regularly in The Third. It will explore the ‘growing pains’ of the Third as it grows into whatever it will become.
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