By Dominic Aigbogun
To secure safety, all hands must be on deck. Safety is a collective responsibility in which every person shoulders a responsibility and has obligation to obey its rules and regulations. In a corporate body, management, by Government regulation, shoulders overall responsibility to set the standard and make adequate provisions for safety through a safety policy relevant to its operations. The policy, of course, would include fire prevention and control.
A corporate body that can sue and be sued does not relate only to a privately established company. Thus, it includes Government departments, affiliates and agencies. In this light, every establishment, whether private or government owned at Federal, State and Local Government levels, must have safety conscious management boards / executives.
The acceptance of the foregoing concept would hold the management of every organization accountable for safety and challenge them to set up safety procedures and administration that will certainly minimize disastrous fires in our homes, work places, markets, and public places generally.
Our Governments at Federal, State and Local Government levels must imbibe the culture of ‘’do as I do’’, that is leadership by example principles. All government established organizations, including educational institutions, must have fire prevention professionals/consultants to oversee their fire prevention and control administration. These professionals should supervise/head the fire section in their Health and Safety Department. All Government established organizations must, like private organizations, observe relevant safety legislation made by the Government to secure safety in works operations
Relevance Of Fire Service
Someone might see the above as a digression from the topic, emphasizing “Fire Service as an internal security agency for security of national economy”. Here lies the misunderstanding of the role or usefulness of public fire service. If the Public Fire Brigade was empowered to ensure that every medium and large organization has at least a commensurate team of in-plant fire wardens, supervised by a professional fire officer or fire safety consultant, the fire statistics shown above would not have been that bad. Republic Building on Custom Street – Lagos, Aswani Textile Mill at Isolo – Lagos, NIDB Building on Broad Street – Lagos, and the two-storey NASCO Building in Apapa might not have been lost to the fires that engulfed them.
Lesson From Nestle Nigeria Plc
In spite of their extensive construction of fire resisting structures, fire retarding factory layout, installation of automatic fire suppression systems which they have in place in their Factory, they supplemented their emergency preparedness with in-plant fire- fighting team and a well- equipped firefighting vehicle. This preparedness, in relation with assessed risks, is replicated at all their sites and Head Office.
- No fire outbreak in their premises has escaped being quelled at its incipient stage
- In terms of production and profitability, NESTLE is a leader whose share value is about the highest in Nigeria, and it compares favorably with world leading business organizations.
There are undoubtedly some other organizations like Nestle whose focus on safety enabled them to develop resilience to withstand economic challenges and remain highly profitable; for example, NNPC conglomerate and Oil Companies on whose operations the economy of our country depends. They do not fold their hands and depend on public fire service, no matter how close they are to it. Another example is CBN Head Office in Abuja where I saw sophisticated fire service vehicles, primarily for protection of the Office, in spite of the presence of Federal and FCT Fire Services stations in Abuja. The axiom ‘’ Heavens help those who help themselves’’ has stood and will continue to stand the test of time.
The drive for fire safety in both the public and private sectors should be a primary objective of our Fire Brigades, as a safety/security agency. The pursuit of this objective will afford them ample time opportunity to train and sharpen their prowess to check and promptly extinguish any fire out-break that may run out of the control of industrial fire wardens. Additionally, they will generate considerable fund, from fines for non-compliance with fire safety requirements, which will enhance their financial capacity for specialist training and acquisition of equipment for the service. This is the direction our governments, national and state assemblies, and fire service directors should be looking at, for continuous enhancement of our national economy. That is what the Fire Protection Association of Nigeria (FPAN) is advocating.
Furthermore, markets, shops, offices and every building in townships must be made by law to have insurance cover in the overall interests of their owners, occupants, public safety, and the national economy. One of the advantages in this is the Insurers requirement for fire protection with appropriate fire extinguisher(s), which will create fire safety consciousness in occupied buildings and significantly reduce the incidence of fire disasters in homes, shops, offices, markets, and recreational places.
Objectives Of Fire Protection Association Of Nigeria
At this point, it is pertinent to inform the public of the objectives of the Association, which include:
- To advance the science of and to improve the methods for, the protection of persons and property on Land, Sea or Air, against fire and other cognate risks and the prevention of such risks and to advance and improve the methods of saving property and protecting salvage consequent thereon.
- To disseminate expert advice for the protection against and the prevention of fire and other cognate risks and to publish information relating to the same subjects or any of them in our Loss Prevention Journal or in any other publication.
- To formulate problems of protection and prevention against fire and other cognate risks as subjects of research and to co-operate in research and to investigate the cause and spread of fire.
- To test, survey, inspect, approve and classify structures and their components, appliances, devices, and materials from the standpoint of the protection against and the prevention of fire and other cognate risks without any commercial intent or financial consideration.
- To ascertain, formulate and publish recommendations, rules, regulations, and codes of practice relating to the protection against and the prevention of fire and other cognate risks
- To collect, analyze and collaborate in the collection and analysis of statistics relating to fires and other cognate risks, their essential causes and the factors contributing thereto or to their spread without any commercial intent or financial consideration.
- To undertake propagation to the public of such knowledge as may be considered desirable in connection with the objects of the Association.
- To exchange information and co-operate with other bodies or persons and to institute or receive enquiries in connection with the objects of the Association.
- To collaborate with Government Departments, Public or Private Corporations, Technical Institutions and other Agencies or persons in regard to functions which are within their scope, with a view to avoiding overlapping or waste of efforts.
It is on the basis of the foregoing nine-point objectives that the Association has its mission to ensure the development of high quality Safety and Loss Prevention standard and to rally factors that would continually upgrade existing standards.
In the next episode we will be looking at the Past Efforts of the Fire Protection Association of Nigeria.
Article written by
Dominic O. Aigbogun, founder and former Chairman BOT (1980-2013) Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria (ISPON) and Vice President Fire Protection Association of Nigeria
First published in Safety Record Newspaper in October 2013