Ground-breaking Smoke Alarm project already saving lives
The Western Cape department of Local Government provided an update of its innovative smoke alarm project for High Fire Risk Communities at a press conference held in Cape Town today.
The project is aimed at combating fire-related deaths in informal settlements across the Western Cape and was developed in response to a request from Premier Helen Zille to find solutions to the problem.
The Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell, said the project - which forms part of the Western Cape’s Strategic Framework for Fire and Burn Prevention known as the “Fire is Everyone’s Fight” campaign – is showing tremendous promise.
“The project was first piloted in the Breede Valley district and then rolled out in the community of Wallacedene with the support of Santam, who assisted us in providing up to 2000 smoke alarms in that community. The results have been outstanding with many alarms triggered that have led to people’s lives being saved.”
Western Cape Disaster management’s Rodney Eksteen says the department’s three-year long research, found the biggest killer in household fires is smoke.
“When people are asleep and a smouldering fire starts up, the toxic smoke can cause people to go into an even deeper sleep, until breathing stops altogether. By the time a fire breaks out, it’s often too late. The goal of this project is to motivate municipalities and communities to install smoke alarms in dwellings that will wake people up before it’s too late.”
Eksteen says that the number of recorded fire-related deaths in South Africa has increased from an estimated 400 in 1980 to 2276 in 2014.
“Between 2009 and 2012, about 5 000 informal settlement fires were reported. In our opinion these numbers are possibly under reported and therefore the picture could in reality, be worse,” he says.
Bredell says the project is not a silver bullet to solve all the fire-related challenges.
“It will not prevent fires. It will not prevent all deaths. But there can be no doubt that it has the potential to save thousands of lives across this country.”
The department has already presented the project to National government counterparts.
Bredell says he would like to see a smoke alarm in every home in the country.
“These problems not only affect informal dwellings, but also homes of any type. We want to urge the public to consider their own safety and look at installing these measures in their homes where possible.”
The department continues to work closely with local government entities who are interested in implementing the project in their communities.
Spokesperson for the Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell
Mobile: 084 583 1670
Telephone: 021 483 2820