Sunday, January 27, 2013

Fire outbreak………a chain reaction

Fire has a lot of uses but if not properly contained can be a source of damage and loss. Fire is basically caused by the chemical reaction between a fuel source, oxygen and heat. It is an oxidation- reduction chemical process of combustion involving rapid oxidation of the fuel source at an increased temperature to ignition point with release of energy, heat, light and gaseous by products.
In the past fire was represented by a triangle but is currently represented by a tetrahedron (4 sided geometric). All these elements must be present for a fire outbreak to occur.

1. Fuel (any substance that can undergo combustion) 
2. Heat (energy sufficient to release vapor from fuel causing ignition)
3. Oxidizing agent (air containing oxygen)
4. Chain reaction (an uninhibited exothermic reaction that produces ignition)

 Below is a breakdown of facts /statistics on some of the major fire outbreak from 2012 till Date.

·       January 2012: National Assembly in Abuja fire incident caused by electrical fault, no casualties.
·       June 2012: Nigeria Maritime Administration & Safety agency (NMASA) in Apapa, Lagos; properties destroyed but no casualties.
·       June 2012: Private property at Oworonshoki, Lagos fire started from obsolete PHCN service wire: 1 fatality, some serious injuries and loss of assets.
·       August 2012: fire incident at Lagos University teaching hospital, no casualties.
·       December 20th, 2012 fire at D-wing renovation site in MM International airport, Lagos, during welding activities; no casualties were recorded.
·       December 26th, 2012: A shop used to store fireworks in Jankara area of Lagos Island caused an explosion; 9 buildings destroyed and 30 serious injuries.
·       January 6th, 2013: fire in section of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Abuja.
·       January 8th, 2013: Okobaba, Lagos fire with property (shops and houses) loss.
·       January 8th, 2013: fire gutted a sawmill at Ebutta Metta in Lagos; no casualties.
·       January 9th, 2013: explosion of the badge during refueling at MRS jetty, Tin Can Island, Lagos.
·       January 9th, 2013: Palace of Alaafin of Oyo razed by fire due to electrical surge; property loss.
·       January 9th, 2013: Aluta market of Adekunle Alasin University, assets damage.
·       January 11th, 2013: Fire razed 300 houses in Ijawkiri in Nembe local government area of Bayelsa state, no casualties, property loss but possibly arson.
·       January 12th, 2013: Fire inferno at chemical and paints manufacturing firm BBC industries at Tema in Ghana, no casualties.
·       January 14th, 2013: Tanker explosion on the Bibiani-Kumasi highway killing the driver and his mate, burnt four (4) houses, four (4) shops and a drinking spot.
·       January 15th, 2013: Fire incident at “Mr. Price” close to entrance 1 of the Ikeja mall, Aluasa, Lagos, no casualties.
·       January 16th 2013: Fire outbreak on Chevron drilling rig at the Funiwa oil facility in North Apoi platform, there were casualties.
·       January 23rd, 2013: The recent Arepo fire outbreak in Ogun state during vandalization of NNPC pipelines; the fourth episode in less than 6months.
It is important to note that there are a lot more that were not recorded or reported but a sampling of the incidents recorded shows negligence as a key factor and most if not all the outbreaks could have been prevented or nipped at the bud- emergency response. The fire outbreak that occurred today in a nightclub in Santa Maria in Brazil further points to this fact.

The following are possible causes of a fire outbreak
  • ·       Arson
  • ·       Poor housekeeping
  • ·       Improper storage of chemicals and flammable solids and liquids
  • ·       Inadequate understanding of safe work practices
  • ·       Not conformance to standard or best practice procedures
  • ·       Inadequate supervision
Emergency preparedness:
Emergency preparedness and response remains a major proactive step in reducing casualty rate in a fire outbreak. Below is a succinct emergency preparedness plan.
  • ·       Conduct a fire risk assessment of the building or location which should be reviewed periodically
  • ·       Identify an emergency exit in a location, at least 2 ingress/egress point in the building
  • ·       Ensure adequate training of staff or members of family on the emergency response procedure
  • ·       Ensure you have fire fighting equipments available and people have been adequately trained
  • ·       Identify a muster point outside the building that is known to all.
  • ·       Ensure there is accountability so there can be a head count during after and emergency
  • ·       Provide adequate signage for all fire fighting tools, emergency response tools and exit points
  • ·       Provide call points, fire alarm, smoke detectors and sprinkler system for the building after assessment of potential hazards
  • ·       Provide emergency contact numbers such as fire service and post in strategic places
  • ·       Provide well stocked for aid box with trained first aiders with a ration of 1 to 25-50 people.
  • ·       Create awareness to the general public on the risks associated with fire
  • ·       Provide training for individuals undertaking high risk activities
Prevention of fire outbreak:
The practical way of preventing fires is ensuring proper housekeeping always ensure everything is put in its proper place and all sources of fuel should be properly stored and kept free from heat sources. The tetrahedron below indicates how to fight fire by eliminating any of the elements.

Emergency response in case of fire outbreak:
The most effective time to fight a fire is at the incipient stage - just when the fire is starting- between 8 to 30 seconds and only a trained fire fighter can achieve this. Fire can be classified based on the type of material on fire and it will also determine the type of extinguisher to use. With the high incidence of fire outbreak, it is imperative for all stakeholders to be aware of steps to take in a fire outbreak.
The fire outbreaks listed above and that which occurred in the early hours of today (27th January, 2013) at a nightclub in Brazil killing over 200 people and several injured leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
1. Are there adequate fire exits properly identified and labelled?
2. Is there an appropriate emergency procedure in place?
3. Are stakeholders trained in emergency evacuation response?
4. Do businesses and commercial owners ensure the safety procedures are put in place to ensure the safety of their customers in the case of emergency?
All these and many more should be adequately addressed in every home, office, business or commercial building and stakeholders should be adequately briefed on the available emergency response tools to ensure timely response to save lives.
What to do in the event of a fire outbreak?
1. Remain calm and walk briskly to the nearest exit to leave the building
2. Move to the fire assembly point.
3. If the room is filled with smoke, lie on the ground close to the wall and crawl out of the building; smoke is denser than air therefore it will not settle below – level of crawling.

Further reading:

Written by
En-pact Solutions Limited, 2013
Twitter: @OReese2

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