By Jude Njoku
Apart from the Building Code, Nigeria has a National Fire Safety Code which sets out rules guiding fire prevention and control in all public buildings in the country. But a code is not yet a law hence violators cannot be prosecuted in the law courts. Against this backdrop, built environment experts have been lobbying the Federal Government to initiate bills in the National Assembly that would ensure that these codes become Acts of the Parliament.
These experts who spoke to Vanguard Homes & Property in separate interviews, particularly warned against the use of combustible materials, no matter how fanciful, in building constructions.
A Lagos-based Architect, Mr. Emeka Izuwah advised builders to always insist on using only fire-rated building materials, especially in public buildings. .
He decried the siting of petrol filling stations in residential neighbourhoods. “Petrol filling stations should be located away from residential areas. In the same vein, tankers carrying fuel must be regulated to particular routes convenient for them and away from densely populated areas. This will prevent the upturning of tankers and the attendant danger,” he said.
Detection and prevention
Other safety measures canvassed by the CEO of ARCHIPLEX CONSULT include:
* Petrol or other easily combustible materials must never be stored at home, shop or in offices- Petrol for domestic use must be contained in the generating set tank except in cases where diesel is being used
*Multi-storey buildings must be designed to incorporate fire escape stairs with minimum distances to offices. Such areas must have independently lighted signage or directional signs which can guide escape in the case of emergency.
*Fire/smoke alarm and detection system is a must for offices and other areas (kitchens) with a likelihood of fire. This is especially necessary for multi-storey building or offices that have overnight or weekend minimal occupancy. This system can also be connected to trigger off a preventive mechanism to contain the fire pending greater response.
Arc. Izuwah made a strong case for the use of sprinklers and fire extinguishers, especially in public buildings.
“Water sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers are a must for multi-storey building and markets and can be installed to be activated via sensors or a fire or smoke detection mechanism. These must however be regularly maintained so as not to fail in an emergency,” he said.
Another safety measures suggested by Izuwah is the use of durable electrical cables and equipments. “A significant cause of fire outbreaks are poorly manufactured electrical wires/cables and faulty equipment. Contractors must use only cables approved by the Nigerian Standards Organization,SON and replace them once their lifespan is attained. It is highly unfortunate that most offices do not have an operational fire safety plan which prepares people for an emergency. The culture of fire drills should start at primary school level. Markets organisations should be compelled to have fire drills on a regular basis,” he said. .
The Archiplex Consults boss who described the operational readiness of our Fire Service as most appalling, declared: “There is an urgent need to increase the capacity of our fire service nationwide.