By NBF News
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Minimising business losses from fire disasters
Fire can have a devastating impact on small businesses. It can raze a structure in a matter of minutes, hardly giving the employer and employees little time and opportunity to escape.

In Nigeria, for instance, huge amounts and several lives have been lost to the devastating effects of fire in the last four decades. For example, in 2010 alone, according to data published in the current edition of Fire Fighters magazine, no fewer than 990 lives were lost in 7,129 fire incidents in the country, as property worth over N53m were destroyed during the same period.

The intervention of the fire service saved 9,771 persons from death alongside property valued at over N2m. In all, the various fire stations responded to 558 fire calls.

According to the data, the Federal Fire Service recorded the highest fatality rate of 288 deaths, followed by Kano State Fire Service with 268 persons; while Kebbi and Adamawa recorded no casualties, though they experienced 144 and 69 fire incidents, respectively.

The data for a number of states, including Lagos, Borno, Cross River, Ebonyi, Jigawa, Ondo, Rivers and Taraba were not available. But the casualty figure, according to the Managing Director, Sagif Fire Prevention Company, Mr. Dan Ayadi, could be minimised, if entrepreneurs could understand the benefits of installing fire prevention devices in their business environment.

He says apart from insuring one's business premises, there are lots of passive fire prevention and fire detection products that can help minimise the impact of fire disasters.

The Sagif boss says that before such fire prevention gadgets are installed, there is the need for an expert in fire prevention to carry out a fire safety risk assessment.

He says since Nigeria aspires to be among the top economies of the world, there is the need to reverse the infrastructure, product and human deficit in the delivery of fire prevention products.

This, he notes, will help to promote fire prevention as a better alternative thus minimising losses of properties.

He says, 'It is cheaper to prevent fire than fighting it. Too many times when you call fire service whenever there is an outbreak of fire, they tend to do less because of the infrastructural challenges they face.

'At times, they get to the scene of the incident late because of traffic jam and other challenges. But if people can have a system in place that will help to hold and contain fire before the arrival of fire fighters, the losses would be minimised. 'That is why we came about these passive fire prevention products.'

Some of the passive fire products capable of doing the magic, according to him, include Intumescent gaskets that stop fire from penetrating conduit passages through ceilings and walls and fusebox fire protection system, which protects fuse and switch boxes along escape routes, such as staircase and corridors.

Others are fire barrier bags that protect businesses against damaging and disruptive arson attacks and fire retardant liquid, among others.

According to Ayadi, these products will help to ensure that there is no fire outbreak; stop fire at source; significantly reduce the rate of combustion and stops the flicker from becoming flames as well as control the spread of fire beyond the affected area.

He says. 'Fire prevention products provide reduction in rebuilt cost, downtime in terms of business, user friendliness, ease of installation, non corrosiveness and non abrasiveness.

'The costing of these products were done taking into cognisance the constraints of people's budget and we have every product that can help you meet your needs from the point of portable extinguishers and then to the intumescent gaskets. So, our products are relatively cheap because of the safety considerations.

He adds, 'We do quite a lot of training for both private and corporate organisations; we also train individuals, and even to some extent, the fire service. There is always a balance between how to prevent fire and how to fight it but I think prevention is key to safety.'

Speaking on the need for fire prevention, Mr. Timveh Jeremiah says there is need for more orientation as this would also help to reduce the incidence of fire.

Jeremiah, who is in charge of Public Relations and Enlightenment, Federal Capital Fire Service, says, 'Every activity of man revolves around fire and you don't have to look at the cost of having a fire prevention gadget.'

He adds, 'We need to think of how to prevent fire. Our understanding as regards the issue of fire needs to be sensitised. If you can put N3m in a building and we are talking of fire prevention gadget of say N10, 000, then it is worth the risk. What fire prevention companies are doing is to complement our efforts.

'We have gone round the FCT in relation to the awareness of fire safety and we are partnering fire safety organisations. So, when we are properly educated, some of these disasters will not come to play.'