• Friday, May 24, 2024
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Public properties and the fire safety standards

Public properties and the fire safety standards

It is agonizing to watch the specter of market men and women who lost their sources of livelihood to the inferno of fires whose source is unknown.

Nigerians have lost enormous resources to the uncontrollable fire outbreak. The loss is unprecedented and alarming. The intermittent fire outbreak is taking a toll on the fragile economy.

Fires pose a serious threat to both animate and inanimate objects. It affects the rich and the poor, the educated and the illiterate, the government and the citizens, the families, friends, firefighters, and the community.

The fire outbreaks at homes, cars, shops, markets, offices, or community centers leave no room for planning or dialogue.

The only option in most cases is for the victims to prevent it by putting out the fire (if it is possible) and if not, to escape unhurt so that one will live to tell the story rather than being consumed by the inferno of fire.

In the last few months, Nigerians have been inundated with several fires that have destroyed people and public properties.

The Punch Newspaper of March 28, 2023, reported the fire incident that occurred at a five-storey building in the popular Balogun market, Lagos State. The fire was said to have destroyed properties worth millions of naira.

A few days ago, the Channel television station reported that some shops were razed at the Akere Spare Parts Market, Olodi-Apapa in the Ajegunle area of Lagos State following a fire outbreak in the early hours of Wednesday, March 8th, 2023. Millions of naira were lost by the individual shops’ owners.

The Vanguard Newspaper of March 1, 2023, reported a fire accident that occurred in Kurni Market in Kano, destroying a total of 80 shops with unquantified goods worth millions of Naira.

On February 26, 2023, a day after the presidential election, the Guardian newspaper reported that the Maiduguri Central Market, popularly known as the Monday Market, was on fire.

According to Governor Zulum, 13,000 shops, stalls, and kiosks were destroyed. Uninsurable goods worth billions of Naira were lost in the inferno of fire that engulfed the market.

The Premium Times reported the fire outbreak at a section of the famous Balogun market on January 26, 2023. Similarly, on November 15, 2022, the Singer market in Kano experienced a fire outbreak that destroyed four buildings and goods worth millions of naira.

Also, the Tejuosho market in Yaba, Lagos, was engulfed by fire on November 1st, 2022.

Again, Sahara reporters of March 10, 2022, reported that fire razed the popular Ariaria International Market in Abia.

The market is known as “China in Africa” because of people’s creativity in shoemaking and leatherwork.

Furthermore, on February 26, 2022, the popular Ladipo market went up in flames due to a fire outbreak that destroyed over 200 shops and goods worth millions.

Invariably, fire outbreak is a common occurrence in our unstructured markets across the country.

In all these incidents, the common man is at the receiving end; he loses all his investment without compensation from the government, which collects taxes from him.

Some of the traders who are victims of fire incidents are thrown into perpetual poverty; some may never recover from the shocks and the losses.

It is apt to say that the trader’s ignorance of how insurance works and the insincerity and corruption on the part of civil servants that manage public assets with minimal supervision is a matter of serious concern which must not be ignored by the government.

The citizens are ignorant about the usefulness of insurability, that is, the advantage of insuring their wares against future fire outbreaks or losses.

The majority of them do not believe in insurance; rather, they resort to prayer as the antidote to secure their wares. Again, the civil servants have ignorantly compromised safety standards in building and construction.

Both public and private buildings are constructed with minimum or no fire and safety standards: smoke and fire alarms to alert people; water sprinklers to release water to minimize the intensity of the fire; fire extinguishers in strategic places to assist in case of a fire outbreak; and a water hydrant where water could be drawn by the fire and safety officers if the supply finished halfway in the course of a fire emergency.

Also, firefighter parking lanes in case of an outbreak are all compromised by our architects, engineers, and town planners, who supervise the construction of markets, shopping complexes, road construction, personal houses, and government buildings.

In today’s world, fire incidents are more dangerous and pose more risk than in the past because of the availability of highly combustible materials (fuel) in our homes, offices, markets, public buildings, and so on.

The domestic items that fuel fire in our surroundings are chairs, tables, couches, mattresses, clothes, rugs, cotton, and other explosive materials with apparent ignition temperatures, which is the minimum temperature required to start or cause combustion, regardless of an igniting element.

Fire and safety experts identify three pillars of fire safety. These are prevention, detection, and escape. For us to prevent fires, according to fire experts, we must remove fuel, oxygen, or heat.

Fuel and oxygen are always available and almost unavoidable; therefore, the heat should be removed. Thus, people must pay attention to the sources of heat that are readily available at homes, markets, stores, and elsewhere.

The kitchen stove, smoking materials, heating equipment, electrical sources, and candles, matches, and lighters. Electric irons, phone chargers, boiling rings, and other electronic items must be properly disconnected.

Cigarette materials and candles should be well preserved. An electrical connection or repair should be handled by an expert to avoid a wrong connection that may lead to a spark, which may cause a fire outbreak.

Major appliances (refrigerators, dryers, washers, stoves, air conditioners, microwave ovens, etc.) should be plugged directly into a wall receptacle outlet. Extension cords and plug strips should not be used.

In order to detect the outbreak of fire, each house and public premises should be equipped with smoke and fire alarms to alert the people living in them or the security personnel manning the properties or premises of fire and smoke detection.

For the fire alarm to work effectively, there must be a constant and uninterrupted supply of electricity to alert the security control post of an impending fire outbreak and the precise location where it happens.

The crux of the matter is that, how will you prevent a fire outbreak in a country where the seat of power, “Aso Rock, is run on a generator?

In an event in which a fire outbreak happens and it is uncontrollable, the last option for the victims is to escape unharmed or with minimal injury. Once it starts, fire travels very quickly, and the victims must react quickly by mapping out an escape route to avoid being trapped in the inferno.

In the final analysis, the government should mandate the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) to ensure that the builders adhere to fire and safety standards in buildings and road constructions; market men and women should be trained to adhere to fire and safety instructions and to embrace insurance policies to minimize loss in case of a fire outbreak, as experienced in most of the major markets across the country.

Bello, a social commentator, writes from Canada