Homeowners advised on implementing ‘alternative energy’ fire safety plan

Fidelity Services Group CEO Wahl Bartmann. Picture: File

Fidelity Services Group CEO Wahl Bartmann. Picture: File

Published Mar 10, 2024


With the use of alternative energy sources steadily increasing across the globe and in South Africa, security experts have pleaded with homeowners to have a plan in place in order to survive.

As reports of freak explosions, gas leaks and shack fires leading to countless lives lost across a number of communities, have continued to frequent news reports, stakeholders are constantly implementing new ways to avert large scale deaths.

However as South Africans continue to wait for an end to the ongoing electricity crisis, businesses and homeowners have had to start seeking out more alternative energy sources in order to get a reliable source of power.

While some have taken to relying on paraffin, gas, and installing solar panels, others had reportedly taken to using lithium-ion batteries, which according to Fidelity Services Group CEO Wahl Bartmann, had proven to be very well-suited for inverters because of their long life and high voltage.

Despite this great addition to traditional energy sources, Bartmann said often times the dangers that lurked behind the alternative energy sources and how to survive was not taken into consideration.

“It is important that homeowners understand the potential risk of fire that comes with lithium batteries and how difficult they are to control. Such a fire cannot be contained by water or other traditional measures. Lithium-ion fires don’t burn cleanly and can vent toxic gases into the surrounding area.

“If you have installed an inverter at home, we ask that you investigate whether your fire protection measures are adequate and whether they are suitable for lithium fires. Importantly these require a lithium fire extinguisher which should be placed close to your inverter or your battery bank,” said Bartmann.

The Ceo explained that since the launch of the Groups SecureFire division in August 2023, the team had already responded to as many as 270 incidents, with an average of 11 incidents reported per week in Gauteng alone.

He said while the majority of the call-outs were for structural fires, veld fires, electrical fires, vehicle fires and lithium battery fires, with teams able to respond within 15 minutes, it was equally important for homeowners to have measures in place to avoid excessive damage or loss.

Some of the solutions he suggested were for people to consider installing smoke detectors in the main rooms of their houses, including the garage, kitchen, lounge, bedrooms or where there is an accumulation of electronic equipment for recharging.

Families were also advised to ensure the presence of a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and garage, but most importantly making sure all family members in the house knew how to use it.

Bartmann also advised families to ensure all electrical cords and plugs were in good condition without frays or damage, and for electrical outlets not to be overloaded with too many plugs.

In fact he stressed that if possible, homeowners ought to avoid placing extension cords under carpets or rugs at all times.

Lastly, with winter around the corner, it was suggested for extra caution to be taken with the use of candles, by making sure they are placed on ‘sturdy holders’, away from curtains, bedding and other flammable materials.

“You should have at least two ways to exit a room in your home in case of a fire and ensure there is a safety door, with the keys to the door placed at a predetermined centralised spot. Having a trial run twice a year to practise their evacuation is not a bad idea”

He added: “The golden rule is be prepared for any eventuality and if you have a plan in place, your chances of surviving a fire are just that much greater.”

Saturday Star