There is an alarming rise in the number of buildings being destroyed by fire in the country.
Following a number of occurrences of fire outbreaks at Mpilo Hospital, with the recent one having destroyed a doctors’ residence that now requires USD280million for reconstruction, there is need to ensure that buildings are equipped with working fire prevention equipment and systems.
Some of the buildings, particularly Government offices, hospitals, factories and schools in use, were built during the colonial era.
To complicate matters, the fire-fighting equipment installed then is now obsolete, putting occupants and assets at risk.
The Insurance Council of Zimbabwe (ICZ) is encouraging responsible authorities and building owners to invest in the installation of new fire prevention equipment as a means of risk management. This will minimise the destruction and loss incurred in the event of fire out-breaks.
Businesses will also prevent untimely interruptions to their operations.
As part of risk assessment when taking building insurance, insurers conduct physical surveys on the fire equipment installed in buildings. This will determine acceptance of risk and or the level of premiums to be charged.
Premiums will certainly be higher for buildings that prove to have inadequate fire prevention systems.
What makes the situation worse for Zimbabwe is the shortage of fire-fighting equipment and the unavailability of water required for use in extinguishing fires. The destruction caused by fire has resulted in loss of assets and disturbances to business operations as well as people’s lives worth millions of dollars.
Due to the magnitude of fire losses, particularly in Harare that has the highest number of operating factories and office buildings, ICZ donated five fire tenders in 2014 to the City of Harare to help alleviate the shortage of fire tenders and shorten the response time to the site of fire.
While these fire tenders are still in use, it is without doubt that additional modern fire- fighting equipment is required throughout the country.
ICZ operates a Fire Prevention and Inspection Bureau (FPIB) that conducts inspections of fire systems in buildings and approves designs for new installations as well as certification of the installations.
The services of the Bureau, which has been in existence since 1968, are mostly used by insurers with whom some buildings are insured. However, building owners can directly engage the FPIB for such inspections as a risk management tool to preserve their assets.
Despite having fire departments with adequate equipment to respond to fire disaster, the need to have working fire systems in buildings remains a crucial risk management tool. There is need to lobby for effective laws that make it mandatory for both new business premises and homes to be installed with fire systems.
More importantly, obsolete fire systems in existing buildings have to be replaced. The country is fortunate to be going through a period characterised by a lot of residential and industrial construction. However, in order not to reverse such a progressive development, serious thought should be directed at ensuring that these assets are protected from fire damage through use of relevant fire prevention systems.
Contact the Fire Prevention & Inspection Bureau (FPIB) for fire prevention systems inspections or enquiries on 263 8677007101 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.