Vision Tactical –
Emergency personnel have to respond to fires at homes and informal settlements across South Africa.
In the bitterly cold winter weather the risk of injury from fire significantly increases.
Magnitude of the Threat of House Fires
In South Africa, a Medical Research Council report estimates that each year 3.2 percent (1 600 000) of the country’s population will suffer from burn injuries, with the vast majority being from poorer communities.
This high incidence is driven by negative impact factors including the influx of people to urban areas, haphazard urban development, overcrowding, inadequate electrification of homes in low-income communities, paraffin and bio-mass fuels used as the primary energy sources, and lack of effective preventative and education programmes
House Fires as a threat to the Safety of Children
Young children are particularly vulnerable, with death as a result of burn injuries claiming approximately 1 300 young lives each year. This concentration of burn mortality and injury among infants and toddlers occurs more frequently among very young black children below the age of three.
Incidents of burn injury thereafter decrease until adolescence when burn mortality rates start to increase once older children become exposed to a wider range of high-risk activities such as cooking and lighting fires for morning and evening meals – both of which are activities common for older children in low-income settings.
What can we do to protect ourselves and to prevent fires at home?
Accidental fires are just that – an accident. There are however, a number of ways to prevent a fire starting accidentally in your home or business. It starts with having the knowledge of possible causes of fires, and being aware of seemingly harmless objects in your home or business that could ignite and lead to a fire.
It is not to say that every aspect of the home / business is a potential fire hazard, but it is advised to maintain a high index of suspicion when it comes to any form of electrical appliance, gas and open heat source being used.
Sources of Fire: What are causing these fires?
The most probable sources of a potential fire inside the home could come from any of the following, but is not limited to these few that are mentioned:
Frayed electrical wires on appliances
Cigarette/cigar/tobacco pipe embers
Gas leaks followed by a spark igniting
Children playing with matches
Burning oil on a stovetop
Most of these though would need to be accelerated by another source, for example a roll of toilet tissue near a heater grill may ignite and start a fire. It is therefore very important to keep the area around any of these potential fire hazards mentioned above clear. Don’t leave any heater/heated appliance or open flame burning while you leave the room.
Preventing Fire at Home / Do’s and Don’ts
Here are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to a fire possibly breaking out in your house:
DO buy a small fire extinguisher from a reputable dealer to keep in your home – note the correct way to use it
DO familiarize yourself with emergency numbers in the event of a fire and medical emergency
DO take note of warnings on selected appliances – do not cover heaters
DO check electrical cables regularly for damage
DON’T leave the room where a candle is burning, heater is on, fire in the fire place is still burning fiercely, oil is on heat atop the stove etc.
DON’T pack personal belongings before leaving the house in the event of a fire
DON’T try and put an oil fire in the kitchen out with water
DON’T open a closed door of a room suspected to be on fire.
DON’T enter a room that is on fire
DON’T re-enter the home once you have exited away from the fire
DO stay low to the ground when exiting a smoke filled room. Smoke will rise and staying low will minimise the potential for inhalation injuries.
DO cover your nose and mouth with a (moist) cloth. This also minimises the inhalation of smoke by breathing through a barrier.
DO exit the burning building as soon and as safely as possible.