Monday, 28 November 2016

Safe School: The Yabatech Fire Incident


Safety Consultants and Solutions Provider Limited has for some time been advocating for school safety in Nigeria with her #10fingers10toes #SafetyCounts campaign, Yaba Tech hostel recently caught fire the following LFI is an account given by Hammed Usman a fireman and safety professional on the constant neglect that resulted in the YABATECH fire incident.

This is the second time YABATECH will be having this kind of fire incident in less than 10years, the first happened at the food village some years back and the response to the incident by the management was to strengthen the almost dead fire department. Today the fire department is as dead as it was before the first fire incident as the necessary mercenaries for effective fire prevention and fire emergency response are either lacking or inappropriate. YABATECH is not the only institution with this problem, sometimes last year; UNILAG had a fire incident which almost took the lives of 3 of their female students. The response of the school’s management to the incident is to purchase ‘’newly’’ refurbished fire truck, paint the fire station and re-employ the existing firemen. At least these two higher institutions of learning has an existing fire department, what do we say about many others in the country that do not have a functioning fire extinguisher not to talk of fire station? I did a research some years ago about occupational health and safety in Nigerian Higher Institution of learning using Ladoke Akintola University of technology as a case study, my observation made me to conclude that our schools are nothing but a disaster waiting to happen.

Now let’s look at what they did not get right between the food village fire and the yesterday’s fire incident in the school. The composition of the fire department is what worries me a lot, more that 50% of the firemen in that station are not competent to do the job, they are not trained. I was part of the team that trained the few competent ones working in that organization and they said that they had to sponsor themselves for the training in order to get promoted to the next level. A promotion only the chief fire officer got. The others are still on their pre training level even after they had to sponsor themselves for the training. They lost their money and time.
There was also a time that the management decides to install fire hydrant round the whole school, a project which was successful but with the major failure of not producing water. How will the fire hydrant produce water when water doesn’t run in the hostels 24/7?

Looking at the type and size of the fire on November 23rd, it is very obvious that the fire teams responding to the incident will be overwhelmed because they lack the capacity to fight it. The fire truck of the college is as old as the school itself with less than 2500liters water carrying capacity, the numbers of hose are inadequate and busted leading to pressure loss, there is no standard firefighting ladder, the pump on the fire truck cannot give the required 150PSI pressure required for safe and effective firefighting, no crowd control, no command and control structure in place at the scene of incident and most importantly the firemen lacks the required PPE needed for adequate fire response to the incident {WHO WAN DIE?}.

What type of proactive fire prevention strategy has the school’s management adopted? Do they do fire drills in the hostels and faculty buildings, do they give orientation to the new intakes in to the hostels, are there fire safety signs in the schools, do the students know about how not to start fire, do the student know what to do in case of fire incident, are there fire extinguishers in the hostels, are the fire extinguishers functioning, do the portals know how to use the fire extinguishers, are there floor captains and safety champions in the hostels of residence? These are questions looking for answers from both the management of the institution and the fire department.

It’s a pity that with time we will forget this incidents until another one happens then we will think of what to do again without doing anything. It has happened to yabatech now, where it will happen again no one knows, it can be in UNILAG, LAUTECH, LASU, OAU, IBADAN, ABU, NNSUKA, or any other higher institution of learning in the country. It can even be in your home, your place of worship, your place of relaxation, your workplace, in the bus and any other place. I implore the management of the school to implement the following recommendations so as to prevent and mitigate future occurrence.
  • Develop and implement a fire safety policy for the school
  • Recruit more young blood into the fire department
  • Train your firemen
  • Develop a regime of drill for the firemen. Revive the old practice of Thursday morning drills which must be documented and monitored by a senior management staff of the school.
  • Invite a competent and well trained fire expert to monitor and participate in the drill for firemen
  • Get a modern fire engine for the school
  • Get the required PPE for the firemen
  • Encourage other staff {teaching and non-teaching} to volunteer as fire fighters.
  • Get PPE and necessary training ready for the volunteers
  • Have a fire safety orientation training every semester for all intakes in to the halls of residence.
  • Start a regime of fire protective equipment maintenance and document
  • Start a regime of fire drills in all buildings in the schools and document. The fire drill should be conducted by the school’s fire department
  • Install adequate safety signs in all halls of resident
  • Provide an adequate means of water supply to the fire hydrants

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