Across the globe, fires are a frequent and devastating occurrence in informal settlements due to the density of households, the use of unsafe cooking, lighting and heating methods, and the flammable materials which homes are often built with. The combination of these factors enable shack fires to spread rapidly, easily destroying hundreds of homes and displacing thousands of people in a single blaze.
In 2013, three massive fires ripped through South Africa’s largest slum, Khayelitsha, displacing over 5,000 people. This inspired a team to come together and create Lumkani – a start-up and social enterprise with one vision: to minimise the loss of life and property caused by fires in slums.
The team designed a new fire alert system that detects heat instead of smoke to notify the closest fire station, thus giving residents and emergency services much more time to act. The GPS-based fire location system also notifies the surrounding community – including neighbours within a 60-meter radius – so that they can also take action before professional help arrives.
By providing both inhabitants and firemen with real-time information, the new system will have the capacity to significantly reduce the number of spreading fires in the world’s most vulnerable communities. The first detectors distributed in December 2014 have already prevented two dangerous fires from spreading in densely populated communities.