An estimated 1 billion people worldwide live in areas known as slums, shantytowns, or informal settlements, where the built environment doesn't benefit from land-use or safety regulations. Organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank Group predict the number of people living in shantytowns to hit 2 to 3 billion by 2050. In almost all of these areas, fire and fire death rates are staggeringly high.
But a project carried out in a shantytown in Cape Town, South Africa, last year offers hope. The project is the subject of a new NFPA Journal feature article and podcast available online now.
In February 2017, about 2,000 off-the-shelf, battery-operated photoelectric smoke alarms were installed in a particularly at-risk neighborhood in a Cape Town shantytown known as Wallacedene. While some fire safety experts believed the alarms wouldn't work—their doubts were fueled by the thought that nuisance alarms would endlessly sound inside the neighborhood's small shacks, where cooking and heating equipment often generate smoke—the alarms proved immensely successful.
"[They] reduced deaths to zero," said Rodney Eksteen, a former Western Cape fire official who coordinated the smoke alarm installation process. "In all the fire incidents that occurred in that community [in the time researchers monitored fires], there were no deaths. Zero."
Read the full article here.