The fact that safety is man’s fundamental psychological need cannot be underscored and since the very beginning of human existence, people had to face the tasks to ensure safety for themselves and their loved ones. However, In time like this when Nigeria is having her own share of the activities of the ‘luciferous’ agents otherwise known as Boko Haram, though their nefarious activities decimated, a time when it has been estimated that an average of 10 or more persons are been slaughtered every single day since January 1, 2014, and billions of naira in properties have been damaged or lost to the activities of these terrorists.
Fire on the other hand, has also been identified to have caused a lot of damage to the lives and property of residents, hence its management requires a paradigm shift from being reactive to being proactive. Data collated recently by the federal fire service shows that in both Abuja and Lagos, in public building/ government quarters, there were (114) fire incidents out of which (21) lives were lost, (2) lives were saved , no life was rescued and property estimated at (2.896b) billions of naira were lost and (17.235b) billion worth property were saved. In private dwellings total of (265) fire incidents were recorded, of which (163) number of lives were lost, (3) lives were saved, (200) lives were rescued. While property worth (3.2425b) billions were saved, property worth (10.61406b) billion worth were saved. For educational establishments, (3) number of fire incidents were recorded, while no life was lost, no live was saved either, and no life rescued also. While property worth (0.028b) billion was saved, property worth (0.257b) billions was saved, for shops, (11) fire incidents were recorded, while no life was lost, no life was saved either and no life was rescued. While property worth (0.0919b) billion was lost, property worth (0.3389b) billion was saved. For clubs, hotels, restaurants (6) fire incidents were recorded, while no life was lost, no life was also saved and no rescue was done. While property worth (0.0249b) billion was lost, property estimated at (0.39618b) billion were saved. In factories/banks a total of (3) fire incidence were recorded. While no live was lost, no life was saved either and no rescue was done. While property worth (0.0044b) billion was loss, estimated property worth (0.8151b) billion properties was saved. In petrol stations/open ground a total of (38) fire incidents were recorded while (94) lives were lost, no live was saved and none was rescued, while property worth (0.575025b) billion was lost, property worth (0.518675b) billion was saved. In oil/gas installations (special services) a total of (15) numbers of fire incidents were recorded, while no life was lost, (2) lives were saved and no rescued was done. An estimated property worth (0.473062b) billion was lost while an estimated property estimated (4.20065b) billion was saved. In timber sheds a total numbers of (2) fire incidence were recorded no life was lost, no life was saved and no rescue done either. While property estimated at (0.017b) billion were lost, property estimated at (0.052b) billion were saved. In automobile a total of (51) fires were recorded. (10) lives were lost, no life was saved and no life rescued, property worth (0.366501b) billion was saved and property worth (0.91147b) billion naira was lost. In markets a total of (8) fire incidence was recorded, no life lost, no lives saved and no rescue either. While property worth (0.05277b) billion was lost, property worth (0.12185b) billion naira was saved. For others (false calls) (61) numbers of fires were recorded, no life lost, no life saved, but 1life rescued.
In summary, a total of (569) fire was recorded in various categories of buildings in Abuja and Lagos out of which (288) lives were lost, (7) lives were saved, (201) lives rescued , property worth (7.743b) billion naira was lost and property worth (35.562b) billion naira was saved. According to the former controller general of the federal fire service, Olusegun Okebiorun, at the beginning of year 2012, he asserted that, the country witnessed some strategic outbreaks of fire across the country. Needless to say, property worth billions of naira was destroyed with some deaths. Okebiorun further buttressed his points that the national statistics collated for 2012 by the federal fire service was alarming with property worth a huge sum of over 200 billion naira was lost to fire and related emergencies during this period. Yet the propensity to drastically reduce this “loss” is very high if we can muscle up the zeal of making this a reality. He further stressed that, this colossus amount is enough to construct 200 high – rise buildings in the country, it is enough to build 57,000 low cost 3 – bedroom houses, it is enough to build 20,000 luxury flats, it is enough to establish 1000 small scale industries at a cost of 20 million per industry. More jobs would have been generated and the liquidity flow would be enhanced
The questions on many people’s mind are these: how will these anomalies stop? When will government carry out one of its basic responsibilities of ensuring citizen’s lives and property safe? But, really, when and how will killings by terrorists stop? We cannot allow destructions of lives and property to become a permanent feature of our humanity. These mayhems are just one in a series of many in a society that has got used to horror and repugnancies and all that is reprehensible about religion and political fanaticism. In lieu of these self-induced calamities and other associated tragedies, the quick enactment of the national safety code cannot be underscored; this is with a view of suggesting a policy framework that will enhance the purpose, scope and application of the code in Nigeria to help as a measure in ensuring the safety of lives and property citizens.
The fire service in Nigeria an organization championing this noble course of enacting the safety code was established in 1901 as an arm of the of the Lagos Police Brigade, however, in April, 1963, an act of parliament established the federal fire service. While on one hand, it was saddled with the following mandates, among which are: to extinguish, control and prevent fire; rescue of victims during emergency; save and protect life and property; carry out other humanitarian works as maybe required of them under the authority of the minister, on the other hand, its vision is to produce firefighters proficient in the prevention and mitigation of fire and other emergencies. However, her mission statement is to ensure safety of lives and property by eliminating preventable fire outbreak through regulation, training, advocacy, public enlightenment programs and impact reduction during emergencies through adequate preparedness. The service is headed by the Controller General who is assisted by deputy controllers who oversees the various departments. The departments to which the service is presently stratified into among others are: admin and supply, policy regulatory and inspectorate, national fire academy, project review and approval and operations, it should be noted that the operation department is responsible for fighting fire, carry out topography of their areas of jurisdiction and effect rescues. In May 2007, the federal executive council (FEC) approved the following oversight functions recommended by the Ufort Ekaete led committee: regulation of the state and private fire services; prescription and monitoring of standards for the promotion of fire education, fire prevention, safety, mitigation and investigation; provision of policy direction for the nations fire services; ensuring the standardization of fire and rescue equipment manufactured or imported into Nigeria; encouraging the establishment of stations and fire posts by the state fire services; establishing the national fire academy to meet the training requirements of firefighters in the country and beyond and coordination of national emergencies. Presently, the federal fire service has its offices and stations in Abuja, Lagos, Kaduna and Port Harcourt among others; these are too small for a country with a land mass of over 923,000 sq.km and with a population of over one hundred and seventy million people.
The purpose of the code is however to prescribe the minimum standards necessary for the establishment of a reasonable level of fire and life safety, property protection from hazards resulting from fire, explosion and other dangerous conditions constituting imminent perils to lives, livestock and properties.
The scope: the extent of coverage of this code includes:-
(a) The design, installation, operation and maintenance of devices, equipment and systems designed to prevent, mitigate, control and extinguish fire, explosions or other life safety hazards;
(b) Emergency preparedness and planning, including the orderly evacuation of occupants of buildings, structures or premises in the event of fire explosion, biological, chemical or harzadous material incident or release, natural disaster or other emergency or the threat thereof;
(c) The manufacturing, storage, handling, use, sale and transportation of harzadous materials and combustible materials;
(d) The prevention, mitigation and control of hazards to fire- fighters and emergency responders during emergency operations;
(e) The operation and maintenance of any manual automatic or other fire alarm or fire extinguishing device, equipment or system;
(f) Inspection of building, equipment, systems, processes and other fire and life safety related matters;
(g) Review of building plans and specifications for life safety and fire protection systems, access, means of egress, water supplies, processes, hazardous materials and other related matters, including existing occupancies and conditions, the design and construction of new buildings, alterations of and additions to existing buildings;
(h) Investigation of fires, explosions, hazardous materials and other related emergency incidents;
(i) Access requirements for fire services operations;
(j) Fire awareness campaign and life safety education to the general public;
(k) Building finishes, fixtures and other combustibles that aid fire spread and smoke production;
(l) Storage, use, processing, handling and on-site transportation of flammable and combustible gases, liquids, solids and hazardous materials;
(m) Hazards from outside fire in vegetation and combustible wastes;
(n) Regulation and control of special events including but not limited to public places, outdoor events, shows and other similar special make and shift or permanent occupancies; and
(o) Control of fire emergency, related operations and conditions affecting fire fighters safety.
An overview of the afore mentioned scope of the fire safety code, is vital for an organized fire fighting corporation to survive in any civilization and it should be noted that without dedicated professionals to quash flames, fire can spread quickly and bring down entire city blocks, this ultimately results in loss of lives and extensive financial damages, thus, it is easy to see why the United State has made a commitment to maintaining trained firefighters since the very first years of its history. Yet the propensity to drastically reduce this “loss” is very high if we can muscle up the zeal of making the enactment of this code a reality.
When the Jamestown settlement was established in Virginia in 1607, it did not take long for America’s first colonist to recognize the problem of fire. In January of the following year, raging flames destroyed a good part of the settlement. This forced colonists to come up with a plan for dealing with fires. They started using “bucket brigades” to help quash flames. When a fire was reported, all available people would form two lines near the flames. When a fire was reported, all available people would form two lines near the flames. Buckets of water would be passed down one line, tossed on to fire, and then return the other way to get refilled .As for fire warnings, early colonists used their voices in addition to rattles, gongs, and other easily crafted noisemakers to spread word of the flames. Despite early efforts from colonists, it was not until 1648 that an organized fire corps was developed. In this year, the government of New Amsterdam, now New York, created four fire warden positions. A law which is synonymous to our contemporary fire safety code was formed, one of which was the banning of wooden chimney and thatched roofs, it was then the duty of the fire wardens to enforce these laws and inspect buildings for other hazards.
However, the imperativeness of the fire safety code in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized; this is why the controller general of the federal fire service called on the state to commence the enforcement of national fire safety code “now”. According to him : in order to check the rising incidence of fire outbreaks in the country, the federal fire service has directed the state directors of state fire services to commence the enforcement of the national fire safety code in public buildings, this directives he gave while talking to newsmen in Abuja. He explained that the federal and state fire services were expected to carry out the enforcement without delay from design stage, through construction to occupancy with a view to stem the spate of fire outbreaks in the country, he further buttressed his point that the fire code was meant to address conditions hazardous to life and property arising from fire outbreak, unsafe building construction and occupancy, hazardous material storage, transportation and other emergencies. The CG said that key fire flash points, such as petrol stations and tank farms should be located far away from residential areas and operated with proper fire mitigating gadgets. He said subsequent years may not record many fire outbreaks as long as Nigerians observed basic fire preventive tips, even as he cautioned electricity consumers to avoid overloading sockets and to turn off all electrical appliances at the close of work, he advised against bush burning, saying that such fires could easily spread to adjoining property, he also warned against the hoarding of fuel at home and business premises, adding that several fire outbreaks in the country were associated with hoarding of premium motor spirit at non designated place. However, at inception of office, the controller general of the federal fire service Anebi Garba has warned in one of his recent interview granted that, any person discovering a fire should:
i. Raise the alarm
ii. Call the fire service on 199
iii. Evacuate the building
iv. Do not use the lift
v. Assemble at a predetermined point
vi. Call the roll to ensure that no one is left in the building
vii. Attack the fire with the available primary fire fighting appliances
viii. Ensure that you do not endanger yourself
Some of these fire precautions are also necessary:
i. Purchase a fire extinguisher and learn how to use it
ii. Install adequate number of extinguishers and service them every six months
iii. Practice exit drill in the home (EDITH) with your family
iv. Ensure that your electrical installations are carried out by professionals
v. Always place your gas cylinder outside the kitchen
vi. Never allow children to play with matches or stay in the kitchen
vii. Where available, check your smoke/fire alarm systems regularly
viii. Never smoke in bed, dispose cigarette stubs appropriately
ix. Comply with no smoking rules
x. Insure your property against fire
In the event of fire outbreak, raise an alarm by breaking the glass of the nearest fire alarm point or keep shouting FIRE! FIRE!! …..FIRE!!!, keep shouting until everybody is out.
Help the children and the physically challenged, try and extinguish the fire if safe to do so, get out and remain outside, remember to close the door behind you as you get out. Call the local fire service on any number in use. Be conversant with the telephone number of the fire service closest to you.
It should be noted that, one but cannot deduce that Nigeria’s wealth is dwindling, think of Australia and then think of Nigeria, think of Dubai and then think of Nigeria, think of Malaysia and Indonesia and then think of Nigeria. Think of the Scandinavian countries and then think of Nigeria. What comes to your mind? As a matter of urgency, the federal and state fire services should immediately commence the code enforcement without delay to curtail the spate of fire outbreaks which have in one way or the other lead to ‘great’ lives and property.
Ayodele SA, is of the Federal Fire Service, Abuja