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General News of Friday, 1 February 2013

Source: citi fm

Conference Centre ‘Dome’ – A ticking time bomb

Ghana’s biggest entertainment hub – The Dome of the International Conference Centre is a disaster waiting to happen if care is not taken right from this moment. The ‘Dome’ as it is popularly known is situated adjacent the Conference Centre on the left side when one is entering the premises.

The structure was built temporarily for an international conference hosted by Ghana way back in 2008 and has not seen any facelift or maintenance since then. It was meant to have been taken-apart (demolished) after the conference but that decision was rescinded when some business folks in Ghana decided to acquire it for future use.

The said conference was the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XII) hosted in April 2008 for a little over three thousand (3,000) participants from across the globe and it lasted for only 5 days. The structure was later christened as ‘The Dome’ and has since then been turned into a centre for hosting all sorts of entertainment programs.

Majority of the major entertainment events organised during the recently ended festive season which drew thousands of patrons were held there and these include Sonny Badu’s gospel concert, Night of 1015 Laughs and Music, Ghana Rocks, Sarkodie’s Rapperholic concert amongst many others.

Talking about the crowds that gather at the Dome for almost every event and the safety measures associated thereof, I would want to draw our attention to the unfortunate fire outbreak that occurred at a night club in Brazil just last week Sunday, which led to the death of almost 240 youth, with more than 100 injured, many of them severely.

The latest I heard of the story is that the owner attempted suicide because he could not bear the mental agony of knowing that all these people had died supposedly under his care.

The police are still investigating though but some major questions arose from the accident some of which is the quality of the nightclub building and whether emergency procedures were followed.

The blaze appears to have been started by a pyrotechnic flare lit on stage by a member of the band; sound-proofing material caught fire, producing toxic gases which quickly overpowered many in the crowd. Police said that at least one exit was blocked.

Television stations broadcast images of firefighters, helped by bystanders, breaking through a wall to get in. Some of the victims were found in the bathrooms, possibly because they mistook them for emergency exits, and were then unable to come back out through the panicked crowds.

It was reported that the club’s Fire Prevention and Control Plan expired last year.

Mind you, it costs about fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) to rent the place for an event, thus per investigations undertaken by The Weekend Globe. This figure is minus the security you have to provide and the electricity needed to power the place throughout the event.

The Dome, sits an estimated number of over four thousand (4,000) people, the largest structure to take such numbers in Ghana so far.

Now, one would ask, before such a number of people are hosted in one place, what are some of the safety measures that must be put in place?

First of all, there must the necessary emergency exit doors big enough for escape in case there is an emergency.

Secondly there must be adequate fire extinguishers and fire personnel stationed at the place. There also must be an open space or a central gathering point outside the structure where people can gather after exiting the building in case of any mishaps.

There must adequate spaces between the aisle for free passage whenever the need be and for urgent situations when people have to escape from danger.

At least these are the fundamental requirements for any facility that has the capacity to house thousands of people but the case is not such for ‘The Dome’.

A cursory look at the structure and one can tell that it is made from tarpaulin which is mainly rubber and it is quite obvious what happens to rubber when it is heated or catches fire. The way the facility was constructed demanded that air-conditions run at full capacity whenever people gather there. We all appreciate the amount of heat generated outside when air-conditions are put on. Multiply this heat by about 10 jumbo and high powered air-conditions.

Now in case there is a spark anywhere in and around the facility, there are no fire extinguishers on hand or standby unless one depends on the few fire officers – maximum five, who are only brought in when there is an event. The number in the first place is woefully inadequate for such huge numbers.

One other thing that fascinates me the most is the bold inscription at one of the entrances which reads “GENERAL INDEMNITY All persons entering these premises and making use of the facilities DO SO ENTIRELY AT THEIR OWN RISK and the Directors, Owners, Management, Agents And Employees of the venue Accept No Liability Or Responsibility For THE LOSS OR DAMAGE TO ANY PROPERTY OR FOR THE DEATH, INJURY OR HARM TO ANY PERSON whether arising from negligence, wrongful act or omission and any other cause whatsoever.”

indemnity

Simply put, ‘We don’t care what happens to you, you are on your own in this premises.’

I do not seek to be the prophet of doom neither am I hoping something of the sort or any disaster for that matter should happen, but accidents do happen and if they do at the Dome, how prepared would the place and the owners be to save the thousands who throng the place?

I have been to quite a number of events at the Dome and most of these programs are quite professionally organised but one that drew my attention to the poor nature of safety at the dome was a program named ‘Loud in Gh’.

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The program first of all, was poorly organised, did not start on time and had a lot of rascals who were there with a different agenda rather than to have fun.

Some of the boys had flame cans, lighted them and pointed them towards the tarpaulin ceiling.

This continued intermittently for about two hours and anytime the fire officers who were on duty that evening came to the scene, the boys would stop and snub the officers. After several attempts at stopping the act of indiscipline, the fire officers gave up and did not mind them again.

It is indiscipline on the part of the boys but if the situation had gotten out of hand, where would all these people run through? I have counted about six small doors which serve as entrances to the place but when disaster strikes, how quickly get they get all the people out?

Another major issue has to do with the floor of the Dome. It is entirely made of wood and has been carpeted. Currently parts of the floor are shaky and very weak and nothing has been so for a while now. Are we waiting for it to cave in before action is taken?

It behoves on government and all stakeholders in the entertainment industry to invest into the industry which has placed Ghana on the global map through some of its very many acts. A middle income country like Ghana needs to have an ultra modern entertainment theatre or hall that can accommodate over ten thousand. This is a clarion call and should not be under prioritised.

Everyone who has the entertainment industry in Ghana at heart must rise up and join in the campaign for such a facility.

This is not farfetched, it is doable.

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