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PREVENTION is a better cure. Similarly, preventing fire is better than relying on the Fire Brigade to control fire once it occurs in your house. The Fire Brigade may help you with fire control but fire prevention is your job. Do not delegate it to the Fire Brigade.

We shouldn’t leave fire safety to the Fire Brigade alone. Stoning the Fire Brigade for late arrival at the scene is not a solution. The Fire Brigade simply comes to help. In the end, painful though it may sound, it’s you and me who loses when the house is gutted, not the Fire Brigade.

I am not supporting the poor performance of the Fire Brigade. What I am trying to say is simply that when it comes to fire safety, we all have a role to play – individually and corporately.

We all need to take ownership of fire safety in our homes. If you perform well on implementing fire prevention techniques, you will never need the services of the Fire Brigade.

The Fire Brigade comes to control fire after it has occurred. Your goal should be to prevent fire from occurring in the first place.

To know how to prevent fire, we need to understand what fire is.

Last week, I explained that for fire to occur, three elements must combine together. If one element is missing, fire will not take place and if one element is eliminated from the burning fire, fire will go off.

The first element is fuel, second heat and third oxygen. When you combine them, fire occurs. While the fire is burning, if you remove one of the elements, fire goes off. If you prevent the three elements from combining, it means you have prevented fire from happening. It is that simple.

Oxygen is a gas that supports combustion. Without it, combustion cannot take place. Firstly, oxygen is readily available in air. As long as you have air, it means oxygen is present as well. Secondly, heat provides the ignition for fire to take place.

What this means is that for the fuel to burn it has to reach a certain ignition temperature. So anything that is hot like spark, hot stove plates and friction can provide heat to initiate fire. Lastly, fuel is anything that can burn. This can be gas, liquid or solid.

Now that you have understood how fire is formed, let’s look at how to prevent it. The goal of fire prevention is to ensure that the three elements do not combine together.

As stated, oxygen naturally exist in air. So there is very little, if any, that you can do to stop air from blowing wherever it wants. As a result, oxygen will usually be in contact with either fuel or heat separately and no fire will occur.

In other words, oxygen is ever-present. So your focus should be on the remaining two elements. This means that you must ensure that heat doesn’t come in contact with the fuel. This is the secret to fire prevention. 

Always keep the fuel away from any source of ignition. Once you do that, you have achieved fire prevention.

The following are some of the fire prevention strategies you need to practice. The first one is to always remember that fire can attack your home. Most people think that fire can’t happen in their house. They just have this inner feeling that their homes are safe from fires.

You can’t claim to be safe when you haven’t put any safety measures in place. Never think that the people who lost property in a fire were just unfortunate or cursed. No, some of them felt the same way you are feeling or thought the way you are thinking.

Be safety-conscious. Lack of safety-consciousness makes most people to behave carelessly. A safety-conscious person will have a positive attitude towards safety.

He or she will remember to extinguish the candle before sleeping and he or she will smoke from outside the house instead of inside. These and many other simple safety precautions can make a huge difference in preventing fire accidents.

The second one is to maintain good safety practices. Store all the flammable substances safely. Do not put flammable substances near the source of fire. Keeping a plastic cup next to the breezier is an unsafe practice which may result in fire.

There are so many flammable substances at home. Some flammable materials such as perfume come labeled with the word “flammable” or “highly flammable.”

Such materials should be handled with care as they can easily catch fire. If you use a generator which requires petrol, ensure you store less quantity of petrol. The larger the amount of flammable material, the higher the risk of fire.

Keep the container of flammable materials closed and ensure that there are no leaks. The empty container of flammable material must be treated as a filled one. This is because the empty container may contain residual fuel inside.

Ensure that sources of fire like matches or candles are kept away from children. Make sure that electrical equipment like TV sets are kept clean and well-ventilated.

All the electric cables must be insulated. Do not overload the socket or adapter. Unplug electrical appliances during loadshedding.

The third one is install fire detection and control devices. Fire detection devices notifies you when fire occurs while fire control devices put out fire. The examples of fire detection devices are fire and smoke detectors. The fire control devices include fire extinguishers, hydrants and sprinklers.

Currently domestic fires are detected by people seeing fire or smoke. Most people rely on their sight to detect fire. Sometimes fire would have spread by the time it is detected using this method. Using a fire detecting device like smoke detector is fast and reliable.

You need to have a fire extinguisher at home. A fire extinguisher will help you to control fire when it occurs. So a smoke detector will notify you once fire occurs and the fire extinguisher will help you to put it out immediately.

You are the best safety manager in your house. Take time to survey your house. Firstly, identify all the things that can burn. Then, identify the possible sources of fire.

Finally, find safe ways of keeping things that can burn away from the sources of fire. Sensitise the entire family to be safety-conscious and practice safety always.

You don’t need to obtain a permit or license from government to own a fire extinguisher. So buy one. Call me for help. Until next week, stay safe. Zambia needs you.

For your comments, contact the author on cell +260 975 255770 or email:

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