23 January 2013

Rwanda: Public Buildings Fire Safety Rules in Offing

Rwanda is looking to adopt new fire safety measures in public buildings, The New Times understands.

The Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR) could, next month, submit a ministerial draft about fire safety regulations, which could be in force in the next six months if Cabinet approves it.

Sources at the ministry said the regulations, developed as a Prime Minister's Order, are currently being translated from English and French to Kinyarwanda and would be submitted to Cabinet early next month.

"We believe fire risks are increasing as our infrastructure develops, but fire safety regulations are still lacking," Jean Baptiste Nsengiyumva, the director of research and public awareness at MIDIMAR, said yesterday. "We want this (fire safety regulations) to be a law so that it can be enforced."

Nsengiyumva said people have been skipping requirements of equipping buildings with fire extinguishers or refilling them with powder, having knowledgeable people to use the extinguishers, and other safety measures to prevent or fight emergencies because there are no laws in place.

Insurers to benefit:

Ignatius Mugabo, a consultant who has been providing fire-fighting and prevention services since 2009, has also been advocating for regulations.

"People need to stop blaming the government and start blaming themselves," Mugabo, who manages Mugolds International Ltd, said.

With the fire safety infrastructure in place, Mugabo said, businesses would benefit by paying low insurance premiums because they would be insured.

"Businesses should not see regulation as a burden. They will actually help them run smoothly," he says.

The consultant's view is shared by Faustin Karasira, who has been working with insurance mogul Société Nationale D'Assurances Du Rwanda for the last two decades.

"Maybe the law will help us explain the importance of having fire insurance for our clients," Karasira said. "Both the public and our company will benefit from new regulations because clients will get insurance for lower prices since we will be likely to receive fewer claims."

Experts at MIDIMAR have been working to elaborate the fire safety regulations since 2011. They have been receiving input from other stakeholders such as the Police, Rwanda Defence Forces, and Rwanda Housing Authority, among others.

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