Lessons to be learnt from recent events
Waking at 3:00 yesterday morning and seeing the news of the huge fire in London’s Grenfell tower block seemed almost surreal. Visions of the horror of 9/11 were immediately brought to mind and the scenes on TV were as if there was a rescreening of the movie Towering Inferno.
Watching as the fire engulfed the tower one could only hope and pray that those on the upper floors of the 24-story building were able to escape the inferno. As of this morning the death toll was only being reported as 12 but with many more people as yet still unaccounted for, one can only imagine this figure will rise significantly as firemen access the upper floors which are still burning this morning.
Those who witnessed the 9/11 twin towers disasters on TV will undoubtedly remember scenes of people jumping from the towers and facing certain death rather than be consumed by fire. Although similar scenes were not seen on TV footage yesterday, similar scenes were reported by bystanders. One of the most amazing reports was of a mother dropping a child from the ninth or tenth floor being caught by a man on the ground below. Miracles do happen in times of disaster.
But out of disaster comes human spirit and kindness which has been so visibly displayed in all of the fire disasters that have headlined our news in the past seven days. In each and every one of these catastrophic events it has been not only the bravery of the firmen and women fighting the blazes but also the generosity and caring of the surrounding communities that possibly deserves mention. Although not directly affected our own community came together to help whether it for food, water and medical equipment and supplies for the firefighters or food, clothing, bedding for those most affected by the fires including animals. As with our community so it was in London where it was reported that aid was being turned away so generous were the donations received within hours of the disaster.
With the Garden Route, Kouga and Nelson Mandela Bay still so fresh in our minds another fire, even one so far from our own shores, is a grim reminder of the speed at which fire devours all before it, sparing nothing and impossible to arrest. It therefore bears time to reflect and to ask the question, how prepared are YOU should fire strike close to home, YOUR HOME?
- Do you have fire extinguishers at home? An all-purpose extinguisher (one that combats both grease and electrical fires) should always be kept in the kitchen. You should also keep one in the garage and anywhere else where something combustible could start a fire.
- If you do have fire extinguishers, and you should, when did you last check the expiration date on the fire extinguishers?
- With winter upon us and if you have a gas heater, have you had it serviced before the onset of the cold? If not you should do so immediately. Bob Miekle offers a gas heater service facility so make sure you call him today to service yours.
- Precaution should be taken with any heating device and here are some suggestions you should pay attention to even if they seem like common sense.
- Have a one-meter pet and kid-free zone around all heating devices.
- Never leave any heating devices unattended.
- Make sure fireplaces have screens to prevent sparks setting the house on fire.
- When burning any heater except an electrical one, make sure there is good ventilation in the room.
- Never leave heaters on when you go out.
- Never put anything on top of a heater – even when it is switched off.
- Make sure there is nothing that can catch fire within a meter of the heating device.
- Check electrical wiring on heaters and don’t use extension cords, multi-plugs or any device with frayed wiring.
- Ensure the bush around your home is clear and does not present a fire risk
- If a neighbouring plot is overgrown insist that the owner clears the overgrowth or report it to the municipality so that they can have it cleared.
- Keep all your important documents in an easily accessible place where should a threat arise, such documents / belongings can be quickly recovered if you have to evacuate your home.
There is little doubt that the experiences of the past week, both in South Africa and abroad, will be the subject of a debriefing by the St Francis Disaster Volunteer Group (SFDVG). Certainly we are fortunate not to have multi-story buildings in St Francis but we do have other possible challenges that need to be identified and planned for. If you haven’t yet joined the official dsaster management Facebook portal you do so for in the event of a local disaster it will be where accurate information will be posted to keep the community up to date with information.
Why is it not a law in South Africa that every home / building is not required to have fire detection equipment installed? Surely it should be an absolute requirement as important as, if not more so than an electrical certificate and certainly more so than a borer beetle certificate.