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Groping for fire accident solutions

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By Nicole Mbingwani:

ACKNOWLEDGES NEED TO MANAGE RISKS – Nyaleye

Fire accidents have lately become a regular occurrence and are posing a huge menace to businesses in Malawi. Incalculable property has been lost to the accidents whose causes have generally been domestic and industrial.

Additionally, there are obvious risks to human life from fire and this can have very negative consequences for brand perception and reputation if not prevented.

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United Kingdom (UK)-based fire expert, Jason Challenger, says that fire is one of the primary causes of business interruption around the world.

Challenger adds that in the UK, according to the Association of British Insurers, roughly 60 percent of private businesses that experience a fire never recover.

“There is also the impact of fire on the ability that the business has to continue to trade to consider. In the UK, for instance, fires contribute to £8 billion of damage to homes and businesses on an annual basis – that’s why more than half of businesses affected by fire simply don’t recover afterwards. Even with insurance many businesses struggle, as premiums can become punitively expensive,” he says.

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“After a fire, insurers will increase premiums for those affected – you only have to look at California to see evidence of this where, in the wake of wildfires and subsequent insurance claims, complaints about premium hikes increased by 217 per cent,” Challenger adds.

Experts and commentators attribute the increase in fire accidents to several factors, including industrialisation, unstable electricity and illegal electrical connections, among others.

In 2019 alone, fire destroyed valuable property at Mzuzu Market, leaving small and medium scale entrepreneurs poorer. And as The Daily Times found out recently, fire accidents have been happening with worrying regularity in Mzuzu.

Grand and Grill Bar, which is along the M1 Road in Chirimba, Blantyre, was also reduced to ashes in a similar fire accident in April, 2019, before another accident hit Nico House in the commercial city.

Blantyre City Council (BCC) Public Relations Manager, Anthony Kasunda, told The Daily Times recently that the council responds to an average of 20 emergency fire calls every month.

“Common causes of fire accidents are poor insulation in homes resulting in short circuits, electrical equipment left connected to electricity for a long period, poor wiring system/illegal connections mainly in markets, candles left unattended to, cooking utensils left on the cooker due to power outage, among others,” Kasunda said.

Balaka, Mangochi and Zomba were not spared from the menace as fire razed down the markets last year, destroying merchandise worth millions of kwacha.

Former Mzuzu City deputy mayor, Frazer Chunga, once questioned Mzuzu City Council fire-fighters’ capacity to deal with fire accidents, arguing the Fire Department lacks adequate resources to effectively tackle the menace.

“The city was also poorly designed, giving no room for fire-fighters to do their work efficiently,” Chunga once told the media.

On the other hand, Zomba City Council spokesperson, Mercy Chaluma, said they suspected that an electrical appliance, which had not been attended to, caused the fire.

It is estimated that 2,000 vendors in Zomba and Mzuzu lost property worth K1.6 billion between 2004 and 2014. This shows that the risk of fire accidents to business establishments is detrimental to growth and development of the country.

Above all, these fire accidents point to one thing: Executive negligence in the councils and lack of institutionalised funding have been the principle impediment in preparing the fire services.

But various individuals and firms are not giving up on the problem. They are groping for solutions to slow down a raging threat knows no season.

Kontek Safety Company managing director, Ron Kondwani Nyaleye, acknowledges that the need to manage risks related to potential financial loss, health and occupational safety, and many more, through fire accidents, does not require any drum-beating to appreciate its importance.

Nyaleye says it is against this background that his company developed a cost-effective solution to the threat of fire and security whether in complex or hostile environment and in everyday emergencies.

“In these changing times, we need to critically understand emerging risks. Knowledge about impending risks can benefit investors, so that they could make well-informed business decisions,” he narrates.

He stresses that the nature of risks globally has changed enormously, and with their occurrences becoming more unexpected and their effects becoming more profound, risks need to be taken more seriously.

He reckons that in most cases, buildings fall victim to fires because they are not properly fortified.

“It is important to offer services based on international guidelines. This enables us to offer quality services in industrial, property, commercial, manufacturing, banking, hospitality, tobacco and tea industries,” he says.

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