Fire prevention experts have advised the Federal Government to use Information Technology in separating the regulatory work of the country’s fire service from the auditing function, stressing that this will ensure efficiency and limit cases of fire outbreak.
They spoke to our correspondent in Lagos, in commemoration of this year’s Fire Prevention Week. The theme is ‘Don’t wait – Check the date! Replace smoke alarms every 10 years’.
The experts also blamed the weak enforcement of safety rules in the country on the government’s inability to define the roles of the regulatory and audit departments in the fire service.
The African Centre for Life and Fire Safety shared their views, adding that irrespective of existing rules and regulations guiding fire and safety activities in the country, “the government needs to step up its efforts in the area of enforcement to ensure that workers and every other person were safe.
“It can achieve this easily if it fully incorporates Information and Communications Technology tools.”
The centre’s Lead Consultant, Antonia Beri, expressed disappointment at the poor safety compliance level by both individuals and companies.
She identified auditing and strict enforcement of related laws as being vital to preventing fire outbreak, and noted that much was expected from the three tiers of government.
“Besides this, government should work at ensuring the independence of the regulatory and auditing sections as different entities. In other words, there should be a clear boundary between these two functions, otherwise it can lead to a conflict of interest.
“The government alone cannot serve as the regulator and the auditor, as separating these roles will also build a platform whereby these offices can be held accountable and responsible in a transparent manner,” Beri said.
The centre’s lead consultant said, “While the government can maintain its role strictly as the standard setting body, it should empower and certify an accredited and credible auditing consultant to work with the enforcement unit.”
“The auditing section should be made to operate neutrally outside the fire service. I also recommend that auditing should be zoned just like the set up of the Lagos State Waste Management Authority, whereby certain people take charge of certain zones.
“This will enable a structure that will permit simple and smaller units where enforcement and monitoring can be handled by professionals.”
She pointed out that Nigerians had yet to wake up to the reality of the importance of smoke alarm as a disaster-averting device.
According to her, while some corporate organisations are safety conscious through pro-active steps, the response, particularly in individual homes, remains very poor.
She said, “It is quite disheartening that despite the expensive cases of fire incidents being recorded in the country, we have failed to learn. The smoke alarm serves as an active fire system that gives an alert once there is an incident, and this gives more time for people to go out of a building in an orderly and safe manner.
“There are expectations at the corporate level but definitely not in our individual homes. Even in this age, our indigenous corporate organisations are being forced to embrace smoke detectors.”
The Public Relations Officer, Federal Fire Service, Lagos State Command, Mr. Chike Njoku, had earlier listed some causes of fire disasters as fireworks, candle light, storage of petroleum products wrongly, electricity spark and other forms of human carelessness.
“We attended to more fire incidents in 2012. The fire incidents happened in private homes, public buildings, warehouses, sawmills and fuel tankers,” he added.