Santam donates fire detection devices to informal settlements

3 min read 01 November 2018

Santam, South Africa’s largest general insurer, is heeding the plight of informal settlement dwellers, with the announcement that it will install 500 smoke detection devices at the Khayelitsha informal settlement recently devastated by an inferno and other fire hotspots.

The Khayelitsha fire razed more than 300 wood and iron structures, displaced 1 355 people, and caused loss of life to one person.

“As Santam, we are a South African owned and founded company that deeply cares about the welfare of our country and its citizens. We immediately knew we had to intervene when we saw the devastation caused by the fire, and aimed to do so in a manner that minimises the reoccurrence of such a fire risk,” said Mokaedi Dilotsotlhe, Santam’s Chief Marketing Officer.

The smoke detector devices will be installed at strategic locations at the Khayelitsha informal settlement. Santam is also looking to roll-out the devices at other informal settlements deemed to be at high risk of fire damage. The small-round devices have built-in alarms that are activated by smoke. They detect potential fires at smouldering stage and allow communities the opportunity of extinguishing the fire prior to potentially causing devastating damage. 

Santam piloted the installation of such devices in 2017 at the Wallacedene informal settlement in Kraaifontein- Cape Town. To date the Wallacedene experiment has proven to be a resounding success in early detection of potentially devastating fires. During 2016, which is before the detectors were installed, 20 fires had been recorded at Wallacedene. Since the installation, the occurrence of fires has been significantly reduced, with only one fire recorded during the 2017 winter period and four thus far for 2018.

“Santam has to date invested more than R15 million in helping 24 municipalities tackle and mitigate the risks posed by fire and floods to communities. We do this through our Partnership for Risk and Resilience (P4RR) programme, which is a concerted and driven collaborative effort to reduce and prevent the manifestation of fire and flood risks at vulnerable municipalities,” Dilotsotlhe said.

“South Africa faces enormous challenges, requiring strong partnerships to meet the sustainable development goals and to combat the devastating effects of fire and flood risks in a host of district and local municipalities across the country. The P4RR programme is our contribution towards this noble goal,” he added.

“Fires in informal settlements account for, on average, 10% of fires attended to by our firefighters every year. The fire mortality rate has remained below 5 per 100 000 of the population for the past five to six years, but we are committed to reducing this rate even further and eliminating fatalities altogether. These smoke detectors could mean the difference between life and death and we would encourage further partnerships like these between the private and public sector to expand the rollout of these devices,” said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security; and Social Services, Alderman JP Smith.

During this high-risk fire season, communities, property owners, and in particular, owners of thatch roof dwellings need to take heed of the following tips which can keep you safe and prevent the possible loss of life due to fire: