Smoke detectors promises to save lives

The Breede Valley fire department and the Disaster Management Centre in the Western Cape have launched a project to evaluate the effectiveness of smoke detectors to combat losses during fire outbreaks.

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According to Theo Botha, chief fire officer at the Breede Valley fire department, the department had approached the disaster management centre to partner with it and donate smoke detectors.

“As a result, the department acquired 200 smoke detectors from local government, which have been placed in high-risk areas across the Breede Valley municipality, including six farms in the De Doorns region. Each farm received between three to six smoke detectors for use in farm worker houses,” Botha said.

According to Rodney Eksteen, assistant director for Fire and Rescue Services in the Western Cape, although flaming fires caused injury, it was the toxic smoke from fires that was responsible for most of the fire-related deaths in the province. He was speaking at a presentation at the launch of the project in Worcester.

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“We have found that up to 70 % of fire deaths occur while people are sleeping, between 10pm and 5am. The smoke causes people to fall into a deeper sleep so that they are not aware of what is happening,” Eksteen explained. He said that the majority of these deaths could have been prevented by using smoke detector, which were relatively cheap and could be purchased for about R50.

According to Colin Deiner, chief director of Disaster Management and Fire and Rescue, fire management’s biggest challenge occurred in informal settlements where houses were highly combustible, resulting in fires’ spreading quickly, especially during windy conditions.

“The [smoke detectors] being tested at the Breede Valley fire department make a noise of 85dB, which is loud enough to wake people inside a shack, as well as their neighbours. A good smoke detector will give people enough warning to potentially put out a fire themselves, or at least escape with their lives,” he said.