More than 700 people were safely evacuated from Tower C at the International Financial Complex (IFC) yesterday, Acting Assistant Chief Fire Officer Raymond Cooseelal said yesterday.
Cooseelal said he was informed that the generators at Tower C were being tested just before the building was evacuated.
"T&TEC switched the supply from normal power to auxiliary power...the alarm on the 11th floor went off. It was considered an emergency," said Cooseelal, the senior fire officer at the scene yesterday.
He said auxiliary and professional fire fighters assigned to the Summit secretariat responded immediately,
However, it took more than 35 minutes before fire appliances from Fire Service headquarters, which is a short drive away from the IFC, arrived at Tower C.
The fire appliances arrived around 5.37 pm. People had first been evacuated to the area right in front of Tower C at around 4.55 pm and were standing there for more than half an hour when the fire appliances arrived.
Police officers already posted at the IFC for the Summit had been assisting with the evacuation and ensured that everyone in the building was outside.
It was only when the fire appliances arrived at 5.35 pm, that the people standing outside Tower C were instructed by fire officers to walk over to the car park across on the other side of the IFC on Dock Road.
Asked about this, Cooseelal said the fire appliances were dispatched as soon as Fire Service Headquarters received the trouble call at 5.35 p.m.
Once they arrived, he said the fire fighters joined their colleagues who were already in Tower C and began checking each of the building's 26 floors before declaring the building safe to re-enter at 6.05 p.m.
Speaking to reporters yesterday after the evacuation took place, Assistant Superintendent of Police , Joanne James, said that she "was instructed to evacuate the building" and ensured the instructions were followed.
James said she was satisfied with the police response.
At around 6.07 p.m. a contingent of about 30 heavily armed police officers dressed in tactical gear arrived at the IFC's entrance and stood ready to be deployed.
An official from the Summit Secretariat, however, informed them that they were not needed since "it was only a fire alarm."
Less than a minute later, the officers turned around and left the complex.
One reporter from the Voice of America radio station, Gustavo Win, had expressed his concerns as to when he and his colleagues would be allowed back into Tower C since he had a live radio broadcast to do after 7 p.m.