INFLUENCE OF FIRE DISASTERS ON MITIGATION AND PREPAREDNESS IN COMMERCIAL PREMISES IN KENYA; A SURVEY STUDY OF KISUMU CBD

Fire has been quite critical in the daily life of mankind from time immemorial.
Traditionally fire was used in landscape modification such as coppicing basket
materials, clearing bush for ease of travel and hunting, removing thatch in late fall to
promote wildflower seeds, clearing ground for food gathering as well as general
burning to revitalize plant communities for greater abundance. Fire has also been
previously used for cooking, steam bending wood, hunting, smoking hides and meat
to preserve, softening tar and pitch for adhesive, heat treating stones for tools, wood
working, charcoal burning, charring to preserve house posts from insects and rot,
smudge fires to repel mosquitoes, fire to repel predators, heating shelters, lighting,
smoking tobacco and medicines, cauterizing wounds, communication signaling,
steaming and during ceremonies. Fire is today considered as being a significant tool
for humans by playing the most important roles in daily lives including heating,
lighting, cooking, energy, blacksmithing and landscaping.
Kenya as a developing country is characterized by increasing industrial and urban
growth leading to greater use of materials and energy. These industrial products
trigger fires through scientific processes hence triggering fire cases. Several cases of
fires have occurred with mostly destruction of property and loss of lives being
reported. Urban disasters especially fires have tended to receive a baffling lack of
response from aid agencies indicating major gaps in urban preparedness. This shows
Kenya is faced with inadequacy in responding to fire disasters of high magnitude.
Rescue teams have failed in many of this occasions to live up to their billing by either
arriving late at tragedy struck scenes or making it on time but half equipped hence
failing to counter the tragedy.
Chapter one has outlined the problem in that fires have frequently occurred in
different commercial buildings leading to several deaths and destruction of property
hence raising questions as to occupants’ safety.
Chapter two reviews literature related to fire safety in terms of prevention, mitigation
and preparedness and the essentials of these in commercial buildings. These were
obtained from books, journals, newspaper supplements, internet and online databases.
Chapter three presents Research methodology which will be through questionnaires,
interviews and observations. This will fulfill the researchers aim to raise awareness as
to fire safety problems relating to commercial buildings. Chapter Four presents the results of the study which have been discussed under
thematic sub- sections in line with research objectives. The themes include; assessing
fire Safety measures adopted by owners of buildings, assessing level of preparedness
among the occupants in the buildings, assessing the level of preparedness of local
authorities and providing recommendations on Mitigation measures to improve on
Fire Safety in the buildings. The most important findings are that most buildings lack
enough fire equipment, most owners/managers/occupiers and local authorities are ill
prepared to handle fire emergencies, and that education of all stakeholders will play a
vital role in improving fire safety.
Chapter Five presents the summary of findings, conclusions and recommendations for
the study. It was established that adequate fire safety measures are not in place and
therefore ought to be established. It recommends that owners and property managers
should involve fire experts in fire safety, inspection of the firefighting infrastructure,
and enhancing Fire safety measures and programmes. Areas for further research are
also suggested including compliance level or aspect of building owners and property
managers to the relevant fire by laws, effect of design on preparedness and mitigation
measures adopted by owners and property managers and fire preparedness and
mitigation in residential buildings where most fires occur.