Monday, 19 January 2015

18 Ways To Prevent, Mitigate Incessant Fire Outbreaks In Nigeria



The unremitting frequency of fire outbreaks in Nigeria is to say the least, very distressing especially during the harmattan season. Earlier this year, Heritage Mall Ibadan and a section of the Sam Mbakwe Cargo airport, Imo State were gutted by fire, the later resulted in flight delays and cancellations. This week, multiple fire incidents engulfed two markets in Lagos - the popular Balogun and Okobaba Plank markets. Also in Lagos State, fire outbreaks took place in Marina (500 Shops were razed), at a warehouse in Mosheshe Industrial Estate, Kirikiri, and in Sabo Yaba. At the time of writing this piece, Lagos State witnessed more than 15 fire outbreaks within 72 hours in the second week of January 2015. 
 
The Lagos State Fire Service recorded about 188 fire incidents in 2012 while the annual rate of fire outbreaks in Nigeria is estimated to be about 7,000 resulting in slightly more than 1,000 deaths. The Nigerian sphere is replete with agonizing tales of fire disasters; it is difficult to keep tabs on all fire incidents in Nigeria as most of the cases go unreported. According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), about 4,090 people were displaced by fire incidents in North West Nigeria in 2014.

Apart from possible human casualties, there fire incidents destroyed properties, goods worth billions of naira. While conspiracy theorists blame foul play and mysterious circumstances for some of the fire incidents in Nigeria, the NEMA reckons about 90% of such incidents are caused by human negligence and personal habits which will be highlighted in this essay. 

Tinged by this recurring incident and desirous of seeing it curtailed, I apportioned some time to investigate the remote and immediate causes of incessant fire outbreaks in Nigeria. The following are at least 18 recommendations that will go a long way in forestalling, mitigating persistent fire outbreaks in Nigeria:

1.     Characteristic of what obtains in most advanced countries of the world; it is pertinent that the three tiers of the Nigerian government – federal, state and local government areas have functioning Fire Service Departments peopled with competent, passionate, routinely trained and well-remunerated, motivated personnel. The capabilities of the Fire Service must be stepped up by providing them with requisite state-of-the-art firefighting equipment so they can respond more efficiently during fire outbreaks. Not just the government, corporate bodies and individuals must also invest in safety equipment, measures to forestall fire outbreaks.

2.     Nigerians must embrace the culture of subscribing to insurance, indemnities that cover their homes, properties, personal effects, businesses etc. This will minimize losses in the event of a fire outbreak or other natural disasters.

3.     Nigerians must have the emergency telephone numbers of the fire service and the security agencies on their phones as the numbers will come in handy if and when there is an emergency.

4.     The relevant Nigerian authorities must guard against indiscriminately situating petrol stations too close to residential apartments. Stringent safety measures must be put in place if petrol stations are to be sited close to residential apartments. 

5.     Organizations must carry out periodic risk assessment of their premises/facilities, put in place and routinely train staff on comprehensive fire emergency evacuation plans, drills and procedures which must encompass actions to be taken on discovering fire or hearing a fire alarm, identification of key escape routes, places of assembly and roll call amongst others. 

6.     Always ensure you switch off or unplug electrical appliances (at home and in the office) when not in use from the socket because a voltage surge could destroy your gadgets and worse still, an inferno may ensue. If you can, please invest in a good surge protector; they are not quite expensive these days. Don’t patronize low quality, used (second hand) electrical extensions, sockets and wires.

7.     Guard against overloading electrical sockets/outlets with a lot of appliances at the same time to prevent sparks that may lead to fire. 

8.     Consult an expert (an electrical engineer/electrician) if your electrical appliance(s) malfunctions; fixing it by yourself may be dangerous if it is not well done.

9.     Never store petrol or pyrotechnics (knockouts) inside your apartments. Given our generator-driven economy/society, there is a tendency for people to store petrol within reach thereby endangering their lives should a fire outbreak occur.

10.                        Ensure you put candles out before going to bed or leaving your abode, better to use a good candle stand. Also desist from throwing matchstick indiscriminately without ensuring the light is completely quenched.

11.                        For smokers, don’t dispose spent cigarette butts indiscriminately and avoid smoking while lying on your bed so as not to sleep off while still having a half-lit cigarette on your hand which can easily cause an inferno if it drops on the rug carpet or a mattress. 

12.                        Gas cookers and cylinders must be kept in good conditions at all times to avoid sludge or grease from building up and must be routinely checked for leakage.

13.  Fire retardants, extinguishers must be kept within reach in our homes, offices, cars and everybody, children inclusive should be thought how to operate a fire extinguisher.

14.  Desist from refueling your generator while it is still running. Better to have enough petrol that will last an estimated duration. It is advisable to stop the generator, refuel it and start it again especially if it is the poorly serviced type that smokes. Similarly, generators should be kept in a place that allows cross-ventilation because of the carbon monoxide fumes. Entire families have been wiped out by carbon monoxide fumes.

15.  If you reside in an environment with proximity to bushes, make out time to clear or cut down the shrubs, trees within your fence or house. Similarly, folks must desist from indiscriminate bush burning especially during the harmattan season.

16.                         Fire alarms, smoke detectors are affordable these days; ensure you install them in your homes/offices. It is also advisable to have a thunder arrestor on your building; it dispels electrical charges or current away from the building to the earth in the event of a thunder storm. 

17.                         In the event of a fire outbreak, road users and residents will do well to give fire fighters easy access to the scene of a fire outbreak. Folks, hoodlums must desist from vandalizing and looting properties during a fire incident.

18.                         As a matter of urgency, the Federal and Lagos state government must liaise and relocate the plethora of petrol tank farms in Apapa, Lagos State as this is a national disaster waiting to happen if adequate steps are not taken to do the needful. Not just in Lagos state but every other part of Nigeria where such facilities are inappropriately located. Envisage the far-reaching consequences of any of the petrol tank farms, depots been sabotaged by terrorists. Before we say our traditional ‘God forbid’, let us be proactive and avoid shirking our responsibilities. God is not always in the habit of doing for us, that which He has already empowered us to do for ourselves by ourselves. As they say, prevention is better than cure.

Written By:
Don Okereke
(Security Aficionado/Analyst/Consultant, Writer/Blogger, Change Agent, Ex-serviceman)

Follow me on Twitter: @DonOkereke

Contact me via: donuait@yahoo.com