white concrete building during night time

The most recent incident of a fire breaking out in the Johannesburg CBD in the early hours of 3 February highlights the importance of the rational design of performance-based fire safety systems for residential buildings in particular, according to ASP Fire CEO Michael van Niekerk. The latest fire broke out in a building at the intersection of Kerk and Goud Sts.

Fortunately, no fatalities were reported, as Emergency Management Services (EMS) responded swiftly.
The incident follows the tragic fire in Nugget Street two weeks earlier, which resulted in two fatalities and four injuries. In August 2023, the Usindiso building inMarshalltown was engulfed in a fire that claimed 76 lives. “It’s crucial to address fire safety measures and support those affected during such challenging times,” says Van Niekerk. “Proactive planning, education and collaboration are essential to prevent building fires and enhance overall safety in urban areas.”

Mitigation measures include adhering to stringent building codes and inspections. Regular building inspections must be carried out to ensure compliance with fire safety regulations. Strict enforcement of building codes, including the use of fire-resistant materials, correct electrical wiring and emergency exits, is equally vital. Public awareness campaigns can educate residents, business-owners and building occupants about fire hazards, evacuation procedures and the importance of basic interventions such as smoke detectors and the presence of fire extinguishers.

Building managers, security personnel and emergency responders must receive adequate training
in fire prevention and response. “Conduct regular fire drills so that occupants are familiarised with evacuation routes,” urges Van Niekerk.

It is also important for the city to upgrade ageing infrastructure, including electrical systems, to prevent electrical fires. Fire hydrants, water supply systems and fire-fighting equipment need to be maintained and inspected on a regular proactive basis. Van Niekerk urges architects and engineers to prioritise fire safety during building design. The process commences with a fire-risk consultant such as ASP Fire visiting the premises, or reviewing a set of new building plans, to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of all areas of the property and inspect all areas of fire safety and risk in detail.

All buildings in SA need to comply with the requirements of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act, 1977 (Act No 103 of 1977), Fire Protection, as set out in SANS 10400 Part T: 2011.
Upon completion of the fire-risk assessment and drafting the rational design report, ASP Fire provides the client with practical actions to implement. Other measures include compartmentalisation and adequate
escape routes. Fire suppression systems should focus on automatic sprinkler systems, fire alarms and smoke detectors.

High-rise buildings should have pressurised stairwells for safe evacuation. Collaboration with EMS can mean the difference between lives lost or saved. This calls for bolstered co-ordination between the fire department, police and other emergency services.

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