24 December 2012

Rwanda: Public Needs to Be Vigilant About Fire Safety


OVER the past few years, Rwandan businesses have incurred huge losses as a result of fire outbreaks, which have particularly taken a toll on the entertainment industry. The New Times yesterday reported that two separate business premises had been razed by fires; namely a warehouse in Kigali's commercial hub of Nyabogogo and the only executive nightclub in Muhanga town.

Previously, fires destroyed a string of popular nightclubs in Kigali, including Executive Carwash, New Cadillac, Downtown café and La Classe.

The only positive element in all these fires is that no one died from either toxic smoke and poisonous gases or burns. But it could have been far worse.

The government has put in place institutions to help deal with such hazards, with the fire fighting brigade often coming in handy whenever there is an outbreak.

However, it's clear that much more needs to be done. In particular, the Ministry of Infrastructure and other concerned parties need to ensure that fire safety measures are adequately taken care of during construction, especially of public and commercial buildings.

Basic fire fighting devises, such as extinguishers and smoke detectors, do not only need to be installed but should also be regularly checked to ensure they are in good working conditions. Fire exits with clear signs should be mandatory.

But both the owners and employees need to understand how these devices operate. Clients, too, need to have basic fire safety knowledge.

With many fires caused by short-circuit, it is critical that wiring is done professionally, and regularly checked.

Employees should also be trained on precautionary measures such as switching off all electrical appliances whenever they are not in use, and on the recommended actions in case of fire outbreak such as closing doors and windows - once everyone has been evacuated - to minimise the damage.

And certainly owners need to insure their buildings to avoid incurring heavy losses in case of fire disaster.

By and large, without carelessness most fires could be prevented. Now is the time to act.

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