Load shedding poses a significant fire-safety risk, warns fire expert

4 July 2018
The public needs to be aware of the potential fire risks posed by electricity utility Eskom’s decision to implement scheduled load shedding across South Africa, ASP Fire CEO Michael van Niekerk warns. He urges all homeowners to put basic fire-risk mitigation measures in place as a result in order to protect both their families and properties.
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PreviewFire-prevention legislation tends to focus on commercial and retail spaces rather than residential homes.826.3 KBDownload
PreviewThe first thing homeowners need to do in the event of load shedding is to ensure that all power sources are switched off.3.89 MBDownload
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PreviewASP Fire CEO Michael van Niekerk.3.35 MBDownload

In a recent incident, an entire house in Johannesburg was reduced to embers due to a simple incident of a hair dryer being left unattended on a bed after load shedding was implemented. Van Niekerk points out that residents also need to be aware of issues such as leaving heaters unattended near curtains or other combustible materials, for example. While no fatalities were incurred during this latest incident, it highlights the potential danger, and the associated risks, that have to be mediated as a result.

“Imagine leaving a pot of oil on a stove, the power goes out, and you subsequently forget about it,” Van Niekerk highlights. Therefore, he advises that the first thing homeowners need to do in the event of load shedding is to ensure that all power sources are switched off. “This might sound like common sense, but it is very easy to forget to do so when the power goes off unexpectedly, and your home is plunged suddenly into darkness.”

Another risk factor is using candles as a light source, which need to be extinguished immediately once the power supply is restored. “Homeowners need to ensure that candles are positioned correctly so that, in the event that they might fall over, they do not pose a fire risk. Any candles need to be placed in proper containers as well in order to prevent this from happening.”

Van Niekerk advises homeowners to invest in a small fire extinguisher for the home, and to ensure that all residents not only know where this is positioned so it can be accessed readily in darkness, but that everyone on the home knows how to operate it effectively in the event of any fire incident occurring.

Fire-prevention legislation tends to focus on commercial and retail spaces rather than residential homes, where there is no regulatory requirement to have fire extinguishers, hose reels, or even water sprinklers installed, which is also prohibitive from a cost point of view. However, Van Niekerk urges homeowners to have some kind of fire-prevention strategy in place, even if this just entails having a fire extinguisher located at a central point such as a garage.

Homeowners are increasingly opting for back-up gensets to supplement grid power in the event of load shedding, but these pose their own safety and risk issues. Here it is essential to ensure that such gensets are serviced and maintained regularly, so that they can be switched on immediately in the event of load shedding.

“If the power goes out and you switch your genset on, only to find that it is out of fuel, for example, the last thing you want to do is to attempt to refill that genset while it is running, or while the engine or exhaust is hot, as this poses a serious risk of causing a fire while doing this, as the genset can therefore cause the fuel to combust,” Van Niekerk warns.


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Notes to the Editor
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About ASP Fire
ASP Fire operates across the entire African continent from its Gauteng base, providing professional, accredited fire risk management and support to its clients. ASP Fire designs, installs and maintains a full range of fire detection and suppression equipment suited to clients’ needs. ASP Fire provides a holistic, proactive and preventative fire solution based on integrated fire risk assessment, training and consulting, with the installation and maintenance of fire detection and suppression systems that meet SABS, NFPA, FPASA, FDIA and SAQCC standards.


ASP Fire Contact
Michael van Niekerk
Phone: +27 (0) 11 452 2169
Cell: +27 (0) 83 779 1701
Fax: +27 (0) 86 505 1030
michael [at] aspfire [dot] co [dot] za
Web: www.aspfire.co.za


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