The government has issued new stringent instructions to enforce existing fire safety laws, following a recent increase in fire outbreaks in the country.
The instructions, issued by the prime minister, were published in the Official Gazette on Friday, barely two days after a fire gutted a building in the City of Kigali’s busy commercial street, commonly known as Quartier Matheus.
The latest incident that left traders counting losses came on the heels of several others, including one in Rubavu Prison that killed five people and injured 60. Two prison facilities have been destroyed by fires in a month.
The new instructions cover public places, national parks, forests, and storage facilities. They also cover transportation and use of inflammable materials in the country.
“Any building and other public places whether existing or to be constructed must comply with laws and regulations in force in Rwanda relating to the prevention and management of fire outbreaks,” the new instructions state in Article 5.
Under the new rules, a fire safety assessment shall be done for all existing public buildings or other public places every three years.
According to Article 6, any public building or other public place shall have, at a minimum, the following firefighting equipments: A fire alarm system with an alarm bell on each floor; smoke detectors and sprinklers on each floor; a fire extinguisher every 50 meters on each floor; hose reels on each floor; closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras and a control room; and a lightning arrester or rod.
The instructions also details how wild fires must be prevented, installations of electricity in public and residential buildings —saying they must be inspected and certified before use. These installations will henceforth be inspected every three years.
Under Article 11: Insurance for public buildings or other public places, something that insurance companies have requested for long, is now mandatory.
“For the purpose of insuring materials, properties, persons and their adequate compensation, all public buildings and other public places shall have insurance against fire outbreaks,” reads the clause.
When told about the development on Saturday, Jean Pierre Majoro, the Secretary General of the insurers’ association (ASSAR), was delighted.
“This is a very good step that is in line with our long standing wish. Hopefully, people will now abide by it and insure their properties. It is a good move and we shall also base on it to up our sensitisation and marketing efforts as we do our job,” Majoro said.
Earlier, on Friday, Majoro, and Charles Butera, Soras’ Underwriting Director, ahd told this paper that insurance penetration in the country stood at 2.5 percent. According to Butera, if many people insured their properties and businesses, “it would actually reduce the cost of insurance premiums a great deal.”
The government has also promised to boost the capacity of the Fire Brigade in terms of equipment and personnel.
“The brigade in major cities shall be equipped with at least a big fire fighting truck with trained personnel while the brigade in minor cites with a small firefighting truck with trained personnel for its operation,” the gazette says in Article 26.
Furthermore, the City of Kigali shall have at least two firefighting engines in each District.
At least 100 public fire hydrants in Kigali City and five public Fire hydrants in other cities; and two public fire hydrants in minor cities, shall be provided.
It is also noted that staff in public or private institutions shall be trained on basic fire safety precautions at all levels. According to Article 32, a sensitization campaign through all possible channels shall be spearheaded at national level.