There is a general trend among building owners, insurance companies and government to work towards ensuring that all private and government buildings comply with fire safety legislation, training institution South African Fire and Medical Academy (Safma) reports.
Safma director Mark Ackers says, however, that a significant improvement in oversight and enforcement is required before this can be achieved.
Nevertheless, with the number of new technologies increasing, and better and easier-to-use firefighting equipment becoming available, there is an increased opportunity to improve fire-safety awareness at all levels of private industry and government, he adds.
It is the responsibility of the building owners to comply with fire safety regulations and it is in their interest to see that a safety inspection of the premises is conducted at least once a year, Ackers says.
He points out that a large percentage of building owners still do not seek assistance from professionals to improve fire-protection and fire-prevention methods or to comply with legislation.
Fire safety is becoming a standard operating principle to make tenancy attractive. A fire safe building is an economically viable building, he argues.
“Building owners and tenants must take fire safety seriously. Many building owners are requesting inspections by their local fire department. The challenge is weighing up lost production time against the cost of increasing awareness of fire-safe environments.”
Ackers asserts that the education of landlords and building owners is essential in raising awareness of changes in safety legislation.
“Many fire departments are short-staffed or have a shortage of the appropriate skills and this hampers the turnaround times for building inspections. This has led to building owners having to rely on private fire companies to edu- cate tenants if the local departments are not available,” he states.
Further, he says insurance companies are interested in making fire-protection and fire-prevention compliance a priority but says this is not matched by the levels of interest in industrial fire-protection and fire-prevention within industry.
He urges all companies, public facilities and government institutions to ensure that their fire-prevention and fire-protection ini- tiatives are in line with regulations and to ask for assistance from public or private institutions to ensure compliance.
Safma provides fire safety training programmes for corporate clients, while also working towards raising awareness of fire safety among the general public and school children.
“Training, education and awareness are big issues. People must know the reason for fire safety on premises and know how to deal with emergencies,” he says.