Progress cited in fire safety rules compliance

Adherence to fire safety regulations issued in July last year is rising steadily, according to a report by the Ministry forDisaster Management and Refugee Affairs (Midimar).
Police try to contain a fire at Canaberra restaurant in Remera in October last year.  (John Mbanda)
Police try to contain a fire at Canaberra restaurant in Remera in October last year. (John Mbanda)

Adherence to fire safety regulations issued in July last year is rising steadily, according to a report by the Ministry forDisaster Management and Refugee Affairs (Midimar). 

The instructions that sought to prevent fire outbreaks at public buildings, national parks, forests, as well as transport and storage facilities, had a six-month deadline which elapsed in December.

According to the ministry, the public has increasingly understood the importance of the Prime Minister’s instructions and responded accordingly.

A compliance report obtained by The New Times shows that line institutions such as Rwanda Housing Authority, Rwanda National Police, Midimar, Rwanda Bureau of Standards and the Ministry of Local Government have made headway in the instructions compliance.

So far, the above institutions have put in place a fire safety check list to be used for new and existing buildings as well as fire safety inspection teams across the country.

So far the Midimar inspection team has inspected a total of 124 buildings in the country comprising public and commercial buildings with a majority of them-83- in Kigali.

The team, in partnership with the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority, put in place regulations and certification standards for electrical installers and electricians.

It cited incompetence and lack of qualifications among challenges as only 45 (30 per cent) passed the exams out of the 147 applicants who had registered for certification.

It, however, recommended that another phase of registration be planned for those who missed certification.

Last year the ministry had asked district authorities and other public institutions to submit focal points who would be trained on fire safety preparedness and inspections.

Speaking to The New Times, Jean Baptiste Nsengiyumva, the director of Risk Reduction and Preparedness Unit at Midimar, said institutions were slowing the process as most of them were yet to comply.

“Out of 30 districts, only 15 have sent in focal points to be trained in fire safety preparedness and response. It is not clear why the others are reluctant. We are also waiting for about 35 public institutions and ministries to send in their focal persons,” Nsengiyumva said.

Following the spontaneous fire outbreaks across the country last year especially between the months of June and July, there were calls for decentralisation of fire management institutions to the district level to improve response in case of fire outbreaks.

There were complaints that with the centralised system, the fire fighting department would reach certain districts when so much damage had already been done.

“Districts were budgeting for the acquisition of their own firefighting equipment and were working closely with the Police and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to mobilise funds and issue tenders to that effect,” the Midimar official said.

Nsengiyumva, however, noted that only two out of the 28 water hydrants were functional but efforts to reinstall 26 others were underway.

Budgetary constraints were found to be the key hindrance to compliance with the regulations as the instructions had come in after most institutions had already finalised their 2014/2015 budgets.

Midimar said they were considering imposing punishments in the form of fines for non compliant buildings but for now they were using recommendations and deadlines.

Fidel Nsenga, the manager of a commercial complex around Kimironko Market, told The New Times that complete compliance had been hindered by finances but he had prioritised specific rules.

The safety rules have brought up numerous business opportunities for investors who might want to invest in fire safety management with some focusing on capacity building, installations and fire preparedness assessment.

Martin Kwizera, a businessman who recently ventured in importation of fire preparedness equipment, said demand for goods was on the rise but called for setting of standards of the equipment to avoid second-rate goods making their way into the local market.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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