By Funmi Ajumobi
EMERGENCY exit at home is not an issue that should be compromised, whether you are erecting a building or renting a flat. The exit should not be used as a store or blocked with anything because a little delay in emergency situations can cause great damage or even death.
Nobody plans for fire accidents at home but they do happen. There can be power surge which you may not have control over. Whenever fire accidents happen, especially in our country where emergency response is not as fast as you have in developed countries, a family may lose all it has laboured for.
Though some believe it is not the duty of married women as homemakers to rent a building or build the family house, yet it is their duty to inspect the facilities therein and make sure all safety precautions are in place because, if accidents happen, they are often adversely affected with the children.
Last week’s fire outbreak in Ketu area of Lagos was a sad one. Homemakers learnt that a young woman was trapped in the building because there was no emergency exit. According to an eye witness, she had slept when the fire started at night and was woken up when somebody put a call through to her.
We were told she picked the call only to find that the entrance to the house had been gutted by the inferno and the other hope of escape through the windows was dashed because of the iron burglary. She died in the fire.
If the woman had known that safety is as important as security, she probably would at least have had a blanket she could use to cover her body while running through the fire to escape.
Safety measures to be taken
Though she might have sustained injuries, she probably would still have been alive today. As home makers, married or single, safety measures must be taken anywhere we live, whether in a rented apartment or in your own building.
Safety measures to be taken when renting an apartment or building your house includes but are not limited to the following:
Ensure that any floor that has a bedroom has two means of escape and that each bedroom has a window or door to the exterior that is large and easy enough to open.
Though protectors on windows are necessary for fear of burglars, there should be one made for emergency which should be one that easily gives way. Every member of the family must also be aware of it.
Houses should have an escape route that can resist fire, smoke and fumes long enough for everyone to leave (usually at least 30 minutes).This could be an external fire escape or internal stairs, corridors or walkways that are specially constructed or treated to resist fire.
All the walls, ceilings, floors and partitions along the escape route must be fire resistant. All the doors leading to the escape route must be doors which are fire resistant and close automatically.
To reduce the risk of fire incidence, plan what to do in case of fire and be aware of all escape routes.
Install smoke alarm in the house. This will help to trigger an alarm anytime there is a potential situation for fire outbreak.
Check and ensure that all appliances have been switched off and unplugged before you go to bed.
House owners and tenants should have fire extinguishers within easy reach
Answering questions from Homemakers on whether there is government policy on erecting building in Lagos State or at the national level, the Public Relations Officer of Lagos State Fire Service, Mr. Shakiru Amodu, stated that there is the national fire safety code 2013 and the national building code but that its amendment is still before the National Assembly.
Amodu said it was unfortunate that Nigerians were more security conscious than being safety conscious despite the investment and detailed attention paid to security by the government. According to him, the codes provide for minimal burglary proofs in buildings not more than one storey while two floors and above should be left open for emergency use.
Every apartment with more than a room is expected to have more than one exit/entry points. For example, a room and parlour design must have a door each and the in-between accessibility, to meet the standard required by the codes.
On the use of fire resistant materials, Amodu said the use of fire resistant doors, windows, wall, etc was well specified in the codes but that fire safety compliance structures go beyond that. He, however, advised that fire safety plan be inculcated from the conception of building as provided for by the national fire safety code 2013.