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1.1 Background of Study
Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of combustion releasing heat, light and various reactive products (Pyne, 1982). Fires start in three main ways i.e. accidents (misuse of appliances), deliberate ignition and equipment failure (electrical malfunction) and produce smoke and toxic gases which could be extremely fatal to those exposed to it hence the need for prevention and protection from spreading fires by for instance delaying ignition period to allow people more time to escape and for the fire brigade to arrive at the incident. Fire can make homes unsafe. It can lead to the collapse of houses, loss of property or even death (Supermedia, 2011). Nigeria’s industrial area for instance suffered massive losses due to electric failures in November, 2012 after a Nigeria power substation caught fire forcing the company resort to rationing (http://tribuneonline.com/lagos-1638-fire-incidents-79-deaths-why-trends-may-continue-in-206).
Several cases of fire incidences have previously occurred in Nigeria with most of them having been fatal. The cases include the febuary 2016 fire incidence In Lagos, which goods worth millions of Naira were destroyed at the Mammy market behind the Arena Shopping Complex, Oshodi, and Lagos. The fire outbreak destroyed over 100 shops four years’ ago. Also, in Sapele, Delta State, The AUTHORITY Correspondent, Theophilus Onojeghen reports that a strange midnight inferno had destroyed property estimated at over N100 million, including several buildings at the Sapele Main Market in Sapele Local Government Area of Delta State.
Several fire occurrences have since been reported in Nigeria such as the Balogun Market on Lagos Island, Oko baba Sawmill in Ebute Meta, another in Igando area where four houses were razed recently, another at Ijaniki area where a building comprising six apartments was completely razed and an eight-month-old baby roasted to death. From what was perceived slow response from authorities and agencies. It was observed that urban fire disasters receive a baffling lack of response from aid agencies whenever it occurs indicating major gaps in urban preparedness (UN Habitat, 2011). This shows that Nigeria is faced with inadequacy in responding to fire disasters of high magnitude. Rescue teams have failed in many of the occasions to live up to their billing by either arriving late at tragedy struck scenes or making it on time but half equipped hence failing to counter the tragedy. In most cases failure to have a comprehensive disaster policy had made responses to high risk events such as fire, floods, drought, epidemics and accidents slow or poorly co-ordinated and unnecessarily expensive that even at some point leading to more problems (Kigunda, 2012).
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Fires are known to be crucial in peoples’ lives and have been used mainly for cooking, lighting and heating. Fires have also been known to be dangerous in man’s life. Several properties in Nigeria worth millions of naira have been destroyed to irrecoverable states and lives lost due to outbreak of fires. Since it is difficult to predict fire outbreaks, mitigation is essential to reducing the loss of homes, property and resources especially in the urban interface. Communication, planning processes, tactics and materials development is critical in dealing with incidences of fire occurrences. Frameworks for mitigation should be put in place in order to reduce hazard exposure. Fire prevention is also important in fire management and it requires identification of fire hazards, regular inspections, appropriate signage, education and training as well as assigned roles and qualifications. Every building owners need to put in place fire prevention plan measures to guard against any future eventuality(Pyne, 1982).
A fire disaster preparedness plan ranges from a broad mitigation and preparedness strategy to a detailed contingency plan for responding to the fire hazard. In most plans, the operational priorities need to save human life, meet people’s emergency needs (principally medical care, food, shelter and clothing) and restore facilities that are essential for health, safety and welfare (e.g. hospitals, water and sanitation, power and transport). Rehabilitation and reconstruction are also likely to be included in more strategic plans, although in practice they tend to be poorly integrated with emergency response (UN Habitat, 2002).
The World Bank and US Geological Survey estimated that economic losses worldwide from natural disasters in the 1990s could be reduced by $280bn if $40bn were invested in preparedness, mitigation and prevention strategies (Dilley and Heyman, 1995). On the Nigerian case most buildings have been lacking fire prevention and mitigation plans. Occupants of building have also fallen victims to fires due to perceived lack of preparedness. This has increased exposure to frequent fire disasters which have led to loss of lives and properties. It’s against this background that this study sought to examine whether past occurrences of fire disaster had elicited establishment of prevention and mitigation measures in business premises in Lagos.
1.3 Aim and Objectives
The aim of this study was to determine how to reduce frequent fire occurrences in buildings.
Specific objectives include;
1.4 Research Questions
iii. What are the possible fire safety measures to be taken so to avoid/minimize fire outbreak?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
The problem that this research sought to address was assessing the level of causes, prevention and preparedness in residential buildings against fire risk as envisaged in different government policy instruments with a view to recommending appropriate measures. Issues addressed in this research study include assessing measures adopted by owners of buildings, level of preparedness among the occupants, owners and managers of residential buildings and recommending strategies to improve on mitigation and preparedness in the occupancy of those premises.
1.6 Scope and Delimitation
This study covered fire safety and preparedness in residential buildings in Nigeria. The study was narrowed down to cover residential buildings in Lagos. Factor identification was done on prior knowledge upon which emphasis was on preparedness measures adopted by building owners, managers and occupants as well as preparedness of the local authorities.
1.7 Justification/Significance of the Study
This study was undertaken after several rampant cases of fires had been reported in different parts of the country hence raising fears on the issue of fire preparedness and safety measures in place. The findings and recommendations of this study can give policy makers in the City of Lagos, owners of buildings as well as occupiers the information useful in making and redefining fire safety in their premises hence enhancing awareness.
1.8 Study Area
Lagos, sometimes referred to as Lagos State to distinguish it from Lagos Metropolitan Area, is a state located in the southwestern geopolitical zone of Nigeria. The smallest in area of Nigeria’s 36 states, Lagos State is arguably the most economically important state of the country, containing Lagos, the nation’s largest urban area. The actual population total is disputed between the official Nigerian Census of 2006, and a much higher figure claimed by the Lagos State Government. Lagos State is located in the south-western part of the Nigerian Federation. On the North and East it is bounded by Ogun State. In the West it shares boundaries with the Republic of Benin. Behind its southern borders lies the Atlantic Ocean. 22% of its 3,577 km2 are lagoons and creeks. The location of Lagos on the Nigerian map is shown in figure 1.1 below;
Fig. 1.1 Map of Lagos State
Source: Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, Lagos State.
The Housing sector is vibrant in Lagos with the Public sector having implemented a good number of housing projects in the plan period 2002-2016. The private sector has equally put up more housing programs in the city both residential and commercial. Disaster management is thus gaining momentum in the city. Several accidents identified as susceptible to people in the city have been classified as road, railway, water, air and fire accidents. The government has therefore recommended equipping buildings, vehicles, trains and lake vessels with firefighting equipment to avert fire accidents. The challenge has however been lack of vehicles and inadequate trained personnel to handle emergencies (Republic of Nigeria, 2008).
1.9 Definition of Key Terms
Mitigation – long-term, pre-disaster planning which involves repeated expenditures on structural and non-structural issues in an attempt to reduce or eliminate future risks.
Preparedness – a state of readiness to respond to a disaster, crisis, or other fire emergency situation.
Fire Protection – study and practice of mitigating the unwanted effects of potentially destructive fires.
Fire Safety – putting in place appropriate fire equipment, management of exit routes and proper management of spaces.
Risk – it is effect of uncertainty on objectives or any undesirable event associated with work that can jeopardize the realization of the objectives.
Fire prevention – programs intended to reduce sources of ignition.
Fire – it is a natural phenomenon that occurs whenever a combustible fuel comes into conduct with oxygen at an extremely high temperature.
Fire assembly point – an assembly ground where people gather in case of fire to take roll call.
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