A R5.2 million pilot project that saw hundreds of smoke alarms fitted in Wallacedene shacks has been hailed a life-saving success.
The 1 400 smoke alarms were installed a year ago, and Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell says they’ve done such a good job preventing fire-related fatalities he recommends installing them in all homes.
“These problems not only affect informal dwellings, but also homes of any type. We want to urge the public to consider their own safety and look at installing these measures in their homes where possible,” he said.
Mr Bredell said the project was not a silver bullet but had the potential to save many lives.
“It will not prevent fires. It will not prevent all deaths. But there can be no doubt that it has the potential to save thousands of lives across this country.”
Western Cape disaster management fire and rescue unit assistant director Rodney Eksteen said smoke was the biggest killers in household fires.
“When people are asleep and a smouldering fire starts up, the toxic smoke can cause people to go into an even deeper sleep, until breathing stops altogether. By the time a fire breaks out, it’s often too late. The goal of this project is to motivate municipalities and communities to install smoke alarms in dwellings that will wake people up before it’s too late.”
Thendulani Mzola, who stays in the settlement, said there had been fires since the alarms had been installed but people had quickly alerted to them.
“These alarms have benefited us because with the outbreak of the fires, no one was killed or injured because the alarms have alerted us. The sound is so loud your neighbours will be able to hear it.”
Councillor Simpiwe Nonkeyizana said there had been fewer fires in the area since the alarms had been fitted.
“The device is very effective and can alert you almost immediately if there is a smoke in the shack. For example, if you are boiling your kettle and the steam goes up close to the device it will trigger the alarm,” he said.
He gave an example of a family who had been too drunk to hear the alarm but their neighbours had heard it and alerted them.
In August last year, a smoke detector saved the life of a Wallacedene resident Sibusiso Gibson (“Smoke detectors in shacks saves lives,” Northern News, August 2).