All across the world, fire is known as one of the most dangerous phenomena. In Kenya, according to the National Disaster Operations Centre, in the year 2014 between the months of January and February, 71 fires were reported in Nairobi alone. These fires resulted in the loss of 2,016 jobs, 376 houses, 113 shops, 2 deaths and asset losses in excess of Kshs. 80 Million. The above statistics are nerve wracking but the good thing is, something can be done.
The causes of fire vary depending on the environment but in given sectors, they tend to be similar. For example, in the hospitality and healthcare industries, the most common causes of fire are smoking materials, electrical equipment, cooking fires, heating equipment and at times, arson. However, it is important to know that these fires are avoidable.
As it is commonly said, prevention is better than cure. There are various ways of fire detection. Automatic fire detection systems, when combined with other elements such as emergency response and evacuation plans, can significantly reduce property damage, personal injuries, and loss of life from fire in the workplace or home. Their main function is to quickly identify a developing fire and alert building occupants and emergency response personnel before extensive damage occurs. Automatic fire detection systems do this by using electronic sensors to detect the smoke, heat, or flames from a fire and providing an early warning.
After detection, the next step is usually suppression of the fire. It can either be automatic or manual. An automatic system is typically connected to a smoke and or fire detector and is triggered as soon as heat, smoke, monoxide or flame is picked up. On the other hand, a manual system is not connected to any device and therefore needs someone to actively trigger the system for it to work. The three most common types of suppressants are water, inert gasses and chemical agents. The choice of the most suitable suppressant depends on the risk involved. For example, inert gases such as nitrogen and argon are ideal for situations where water will end up causing damage, such as, killing a fire in an area surrounded by expensive electrical equipment.
In Kenya, there are different laws governing how fire should be handled. The various laws are contained in the Occupational Safety and Health Act 2007 and Legal Notice 59/2007. By law, every workplace should have a thorough health and safety audit carried out in every period of 12 months and failure to comply results in the employer being liable to a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand shillings or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or both.
Knowing is half the battle. Do not let the fear of an occurrence of fire dissipate; transmute it into action.