Fire Risk Prevention For Estates4th Mar 2019
Every time we hear stories of veld fires, homeowners are reminded of the very real danger of a runaway fire to their homes. The devastating Knysna fires of 2017 are a vivid reminder of just how quickly a fire can rage out of control and cause millions of rands of damages. Coupled with domestic risks such as faulty wiring or appliances, it’s a good idea for bodies corporate and trustees to review their estate’s insurance cover to see if it is adequately covered against fire risk.
Proper fire insurance cover is essential
A fire can financially cripple any establishment. Flames, smoke and the water used to extinguish the fire can severely damage buildings and resident belongings. Should an estate not have sufficient fire insurance cover, it may not be in a position to rebuild or repair damages caused by a fire event. Imagine owners forced to pay for any repairs to their homes out of their own pockets and the law suits against the body corporate, this could be financially devastating for anyone involved.
According to the Sectional Titles Act, 1986, bodies corporate have an obligation to insure the building or buildings in a scheme and to keep them insured to the replacement value against fire and such other risks as prescribed.
The insurance policy itself would usually have special and/or general conditions such as “prevention of loss clause” where the body corporate should take precautions to prevent losses or accidents. This usually is very specific about fire protection such as making it a condition that all firefighting equipment is installed, serviced and maintained in accordance with the appropriate regulations and local authority bylaws.
As South Africa’s leading insurer, we recognise that proper risk management is the key. Good risk management means that the trustees and managing agent, along with the assistance of owners and occupiers of sections, take proactive steps to ensure that there is sufficient protection in the event of a fire. So, what can bodies corporate and trustees do to reduce exposure to certain types of fire risks?
Fire risk prevention | Focus areas for estates
In order for bodies corporate and trustees to manage their fire risk, it is essential that a comprehensive fire safety management policy is in place. The following points must form a part of any estate’s fire safety management policy.
Make sure that there are fire extinguishers, in good working order, located close to any places where fires can be expected to break out. A conduct rule could oblige owners and occupiers to keep fire extinguishers in the kitchens and next to any open fireplaces, such as barbecues / braais, in sections or in exclusive use areas.
Electrical and Gas Certificates of Compliance (C.O.C)
Old and unsafe electrical wiring within sections and on exclusive use areas is a concern. Electrical wiring within the areas residents own and control should be kept in good order and condition so as to reduce the risk of fire. Prevention is much better than cure, as such, we recommend that electrical installations are never compromised.
The use of gas for both cooking and heating has become more common. It is therefore imperative that these gas installations and connections are regularly serviced. Gas receptacles should also be stored and secured in accordance with regulations.
The provision of a valid electrical and/or gas Certificate of Compliance provides peace of mind by confirming the installation is legally compliant and that they are safe to use.
- Avoid the build-up of materials that can act as fuel for a fire, for example recycling stations with cardboard boxes, papers and plastic containers should be kept away from dwellings and emptied on a regular basis
- Smoke detector alarms installed within sections are good additions and can serve as an early warning system
- Choose evacuation points and routes carefully
- Make sure there are multiple routes
- Assembly points should be clearly communicated to all owners/occupants
As a major fire event can have far reaching implications for estates, bodies corporate and trustees are urged to identify what fire-prevention, early detection systems and firefighting capabilities are in place or risk the very real dangers of their estates going up in smoke.