Domestic Fire Accidents In A Developing Country: Reducing Morbidity / Mortality By Modifying The "Burglar Proofs"
P Olaitan, M Dairo
burglar proof, burns, domestic fire, fire accidents, trapping
P Olaitan, M Dairo. Domestic Fire Accidents In A Developing Country: Reducing Morbidity / Mortality By Modifying The "Burglar Proofs". The Internet Journal of Rescue and Disaster Medicine. 2006 Volume 6 Number 1.
Introduction: Morbidity and mortality from fire disasters has been noticed to increase as a result of trapping of inhabitants of a house by the burglar proofs commonly in use.
Objectives: This study aims to determine the prevalent type of burglar proof used in houses in Nigeria and residents perception of vulnerability to trapping during fire accidents
Methods: Heads of households from randomly chosen clusters of houses in Osogbo, southwestern Nigeria were interviewed using structured questionnaire
Results: A large percentage (73.4%) of the houses had metallic burglar proof devices. Awareness of previous incidents of trapping was found in 83.5% of respondents. Perception of self vulnerability to trapping was found only in 40.7% of participants. Use of fire prevention and alarm devices was also very low.
Conclusion: Fire prevention programs should be intensified. In the interim, developing countries will benefit from enforcement of housing codes and laws that mandates the adoption of the modified burglar proof.
Presented at the 2004 annual conference of the Nigerian Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (NAPRAS), Enugu.
Burns rank among the most severe types of injuries suffered by the human body and are attended by high mortality and morbidity rates.
Health education aimed at the prevention of Burns in homes as well as in industries is of utmost importance in our fight against the devastating trauma of burn injuries 1 . Traditional practices like cooking at ground levels should be avoided. Measures aimed at preventing and containing the menace of petrol fire, and the application of industrial safety laws, should reduce the incidence of burn in Nigeria. Fire alarms as well as fire extinguishers should be made readily available in the home.
In Nigeria, houses have “burglary proofs” installed on their windows, doors and sometimes the verandah. This is a security measure aimed at preventing robbers from gaining access into the house.
It has however been observed that morbidity and mortality in burn, when it occurs in the home tend to be higher where the “burglar proofs” are in use 2 . This is because escape of the inhabitants of a house, who commonly gets trapped by these rigid non-removable metals in cases of house fire, becomes very difficult.
The aim of this study is to determine the prevalent type of burglar proof devices and residents perception of their vulnerability to trapping in event of fire outbreaks with a view to determining the education needs of the people on building for fire prevention. The current study was also done to investigate the willingness or otherwise of the respondents to adopt modified burglar proofs.
Materials And Methods
The study was descriptive cross sectional in design. The study was carried out in Olorunda local government area of Osogbo, Osun, State, Nigeria. Respondents were drawn from residential houses within the localities involved in the study. Localities were divided into clusters based on proximity. Through a simple balloting system, two clusters were then chosen for the study. In each cluster chosen, houses visited for interview were selected through a systematic random sampling. All the eligible residents in the chosen localities were interviewed. Residents were eligible if they were household heads and also 18 years and above. One respondent, chosen by random sampling was interviewed from each house. A prepared structured questionnaire was used to obtain the information. The questionnaire was interviewer administered. Inhabitants of the houses were asked the house ownership status, the type of “burglary proofs” they have in their houses and whether or not they would prefer a collapsible or any adjustable burglary proofs that will allow escape in case of fire accidents. We also asked their willingness to replace the rigidly fixed burglar proof to adjustable or collapsible type. They were also asked the type of fire prevention devices available in the houses as well as devices that could reduce the extent of damage in cases of fire accidents.
A total of 248 respondents were interviewed from 248 houses. The demographic characteristics of the respondents and house ownership status are shown in the table. One hundred and forty eight (59.7%) were males while 100 (40.3%) were females. The respondents mean age was 43.9±12.9 years. One hundred and fifty six (62.9%) were tenants while 89 (35.9%) were landlords
One hundred and eighty two (73.4%) of the houses had burglar proofs on the windows while 64 (25.8%) had no form of burglar proof. Burglary proofs are found both on the windows and sometimes on the doors with occasional burglary proofs at the verandah. Only 9(4.9%) of the burglar proofs are collapsible, while 173 (95.1%) were rigidly fixed. Two hundred and seven (83.5%) of the respondents had heard of incidents of persons being trapped by burglar proof in cases of fire accidents. Out of the total 248 respondents including those without burglar proof, only 101 (40.7%) felt they could be trapped by burglary proof. However only 18 (9.9%) of the respondents who had burglar proof felt any danger posed to themselves by their burglar proof while 69(37.9%) perceived their own susceptibility to being trapped in fire accidents by their burglar proof. Among the dangers perceived by 191(77%) of the respondents was increased physical damage to burn victims (Table 2).
Reported fire prevention or detection devices in the houses surveyed were as follows: fire extinguisher 20 (8.1%), smoke detector 1 (0.4%), fire alarm 6 (2.4%), fire exit 6 (2.4%)
Burn injuries occur universally and has plagued mankind since antiquity till the present day 1 . It constitutes a major cause of injury all over the world 1,3,4,5 . Globally fire related burns were responsible for 238,000 deaths in the year 2000 and ranked among the 15 leading causes of death and burden of disease among children and young adults 5 -29 years worldwide.
Burns constituted 4.8% of trauma deaths in a review of trauma over 24 months at Ilorin, Nigeria 6 . Etiologically, burn injuries were domestic in most studies from Nigeria 1,7,8,9 . Flame constitutes the highest cause of burns in most of the reports from Nigeria 3,5,7,9 . Mortality reported in most studies from this part of the world is still very high compared to advance countries and it ranges between 21.8% and 36% in some studies 3,7,10,11 . While prevention of house fires should be the priority of every inhabitant of a house and efforts made in educating people on house fire prevention, other facilities like fire extinguishers, fire alarms, should be made available in the house. Efforts should also be made to have a wide exit doors in case of emergencies.
In addition to this however, rigid metallic burglary proofs may constitute a hindrance to movement of inhabitants of the house as well as materials whenever there is fire accident. An instance was the fire accident which occurred in a student hostel Jos; Plateau State Nigeria 12 and killed 23 students because they were barred by burglary proofs and therefore unable to escape. Similar incidents have been recorded in Osun and Adamawa states in Nigeria 13 . Several persons also died in Lagos, Nigeria from kerosene explosion as a result of burglary proofs 2 . Several other sporadic cases of deaths as a result of burglary proofs barring peoples' exit during house fires have been documented.
We therefore suggest adoption of collapsible or removable burglar proofs which allows for exit in case there is fire accident while serving the primary function of inhibiting entry of thieves.
The first is a burglar proof with a window within it (Fig 1a and b). This window is constructed such that it is locked from within. The distance “a” is 0.5m from the end of the window and an outsider cannot therefore be able to reach the end that is locked. Figure b shows the window opened for escape.
The second type of the burglar proof is the collapsible type (Fig 2a and b). The end is hooked to the wall in two or three points with a distance of 0.5m from the window. Fig 2b shows the burglar proof opened and collapsed on to the wall to allow escape having been opened from the hooked end. The hooked end may or may not have a padlock.
The third type is a totally removable type (Fig 3). This is hung to the wall with the hook the same distance as in 1 and 2 from the window end. The hooks are removed in case of fire accidents and the whole burglar proof is removed to allow for escape.
The current study has shown that these adjustable burglar proofs are likely to be accepted as a few of the houses already have some forms of adjustable burglar proofs while others would not mind introducing these in their houses. In this study, one hundred and twenty three (49.6%) of the residents were willing to change their burglar proof to collapsible type.
There is a need to educate people about the benefits of using adjustable burglar proofs. The welders and building artisans who are in the profession of designing of burglar proofs and its installation in buildings should be encouraged to suggest these options to their clients.
Since the residents were willing to change their burglar proofs to adjustable type, considerable will is available to achieve the objective should it become mandatory. The housing and town planning division of the local government area authorities in Nigeria (equivalent of county authorities) which are mandated to approve the construction and certification of buildings are definitely positioned for success, should it commence the enforcement of the adoption of these devices. We recommend that collapsible burglar proof devices be adopted as the standard burglar proofs for homes and other residential buildings. There is a need for revision of the housing codes to incorporate this device in the check list of the requirements for the issuance of certificate of completion of all houses. In addition building plans should not be approved until the applicant shows evidence that collapsible burglar proof will be used. This will reduce the difficulty observed in gaining exit in many houses in Nigeria where burglar proofs are the order of the day. Severity of burn injuries, morbidity and indeed mortality from flame burns in the house is therefore likely to reduce.
Dr. P.B.Olaitan, Burns and Plastic Surgery Unit, Department of Surgery Ladoke Akintola University Of Technology Teaching Hospital, Osogbo, Osun State, Nigeria. E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org