When it comes to such ugly incidents, what I look at as a fire safety expert are issues that relate to risk assessment. We basically deal with fire prevention rather than fire fighting. When you have a situation like this and people are trying to use fire extinguishers…we are looking at a situation that goes beyond that. We are looking at a 21st Century approach which is more about Fire Prevention.
In that kind of instance, what would have been the right thing to do?
Generally, we are looking at buildings, not automobiles. But as time goes on, there will be more research that will be tailored towards automobiles.
So basically, what do you do at Sagif Ventures?
We look essentially at buildings and the hazards that are associated with fire. We look at putting a preventive approach, the materials, the equipment in place par adventure fire happens.
These materials and equipment have the tendency to combine and extinguish the fire even at source, thereby preventing it from spreading.
For instance, our fire prevention materials work in three ways: first, prevention is achieved through ensuring that there is no fire outbreak—ie it will stop it source; second, level of retardant. They significantly reduce the level of combustion and stop the flicker from becoming flames. The third is they control the spread of fire.
What exactly have we not got correct in this fire prevention campaign that we keep on having these terrible fire incidents?
We take a holistic approach when looking at fire situation. We look at issues that relate to hazard analysis. You have a building—what kinds of activities take place there? How many occupants are in that building? Then we look at building code. At the design stage of the building, did they consider fire safety? What about enforcement—enforcement of Fire Codes, are they in place? Does government really understand its place when it comes to Building Code, fire regulation and enforcement?
In the developed countries, either private organisations or individuals that are into fire safety liaise with Fire Service to discuss issues that are in place. And then they look at solutions to issues of fire. We want to collaborate with those involved in Active Fire Prevention—we want to tell them, listen, there is another way out—there is the preventive approach.
Any time we hear there was fire in a building, the story has always been that there was power surge that resulted in inferno. From you experience, is this always the actual factor?
The 21st Century Passive Fire Prevention approach is now the vogue. We know that fire would not announce its arrival. Fire might always emanate from various sources—from electrical spark. We have fire prevention products that we can install at various electrical points in a house. We have materials we can use for instance in the meter. We have materials for use in the area of electrical gasket in the building. All these materials always have tendency to at certain temperature quickly respond to the fire situation and what follows is the end of the fire. Our 21st Century Passive Fire Prevention products are always there. Either these materials need to be in the building at the designing stage or during refurbishing.
Have fire experts any place in the design and construction of buildings?
Yes they do. There is nothing a fire expert can do without collaborating with architects and developers like it is done in developed countries. At the design stage of buildings, fire safety measures are included at that level.
Are we following this process here at all?
We are not. That is why we are making a wake up call to the government. Government should do things that are in vogue in the developed countries. The 21st Century approach is Fire Prevention not Fire Fighting. So many times you call the fire fighters and they would say “Oh, sorry, we don’t have water. Oh sorry, there is no transport.”
In places we have Passive Fire Prevention products in place, it gives the fire personnel the lead way to take their time and get to the building. It also gives the occupants time to move to places of safety. Because of our level of poverty, you call the fire service and they face difficulty getting to that place.
Do you have a professional body like surveyors and architects have so you pressurize government into doing some of these things?
Yes we do but it is left for government to listen. There is the Nigerian Institute of Safety Professionals to which I belong. And there is Safety Bill that was sent to the National Assembly about two years ago. They said they are still working on it. We are looking at a situation where government would be responsive to the needs of the Nigerian Institute of Safety Professionals.