Fire safety concerns persist in Nairobi

January 28, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 28 – Thursday marks one year since the tragedy that saw more than 25 people perish in a fire accident at Nakumatt Downtown in Nairobi.

Following this incident – one of the worst in recent times – the Nairobi City Council moved fast to implement regulations requiring all buildings in the city to have adequate emergency exits to ensure people are able to escape in case of fire or other disasters.

Nairobi City Council Director of City Planning Mr Tom Odongo said they are implementing a number of other measures and regulations for all city building owners.

To curb such incidents in future, he said, apart from the emergency exits being left open, service lanes should be available to ensure accessibility.

“If the service lane is blocked by illegal parking, then in the case of emergency operations, accessibility to the building will always be problematic,” he said.

“We should make sure that the building must be left in a position where it can be accessible for emergency services just as it was planned,” he stated.

He further underscored the need for building owners to avoid overcrowding businesses in their structures and ensure that building materials are fire proof.

“Businesses are going for small spaces instead of businesses that used to take a whole floor which forces a developer to partition sometimes using materials which are quite flammable,” he explained.

“The people taking such property must make sure that they are fire compliant. The secondary exit has to be there,” he emphasised.

Meanwhile, some members of the public feel that the council is not doing enough to prevent similar fire tragedies from occurring.

Those interviewed by Capital News said they were not confident that there were preventive measures in place.

“I do not think that the council has done enough to ensure that buildings are secure.  I have not seen them doing inspections in the city to ensure that generators are situated outside the buildings,” said Agnes Omondi, an accountant in the city.

“We have always had these issues time and again and so far we have not really seen proper risk management being carried out,” she further stated.

“The City Council’s response is expected. It has been sluggish and not up to the expected standards.”

They are now calling for more urgent action by the Nairobi City Council to make buildings in the city safer.

Others want the government to come up with clear-cut policies to govern fire risk management in buildings.

 “You have to be careful and ensure that such an occurrence does not take place again,” Geoffrey Ngumi an IT expert said.

“They need to take this issue with the seriousness it deserves. They need to carry out inspection and ensure that all buildings have got their generators out, not inside the building,” Martin Maina said.

“The Nairobi City Council needs to build fire stations in proximity to city buildings. Doing this will ensure that should there be a fire, it can be put out early enough.”


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