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1.1 Background of Study

Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of combustion releasing heat, light and various reactive products (Pyne, 1982). Fires start in three main ways i.e. accidents (misuse of appliances), deliberate ignition and equipment failure (electrical malfunction) and produce smoke and toxic gases which could be extremely fatal to those exposed to it hence the need for prevention and protection from spreading fires by for instance delaying ignition period to allow people more time to escape and for the fire brigade to arrive at the incident. Fire can make homes unsafe. It can lead to the collapse of houses, loss of property or even death (Supermedia, 2011). Nigeria’s industrial area for instance suffered massive losses due to electric failures in November, 2012 after a Nigeria power substation caught fire forcing the company resort to rationing (

Several cases of fire incidences have previously occurred in Nigeria with most of them having been fatal. The cases include the febuary 2016 fire incidence In Lagos, which goods worth millions of Naira were destroyed at the Mammy market behind the Arena Shopping Complex, Oshodi, and Lagos. The fire out­break destroyed over 100 shops four years’ ago. Also, in Sapele, Delta State, The AUTHORITY Corre­spondent, Theophilus Ono­jeghen reports that a strange midnight inferno had de­stroyed property estimated at over N100 million, includ­ing several buildings at the Sa­pele Main Market in Sapele Lo­cal Government Area of Delta State.

Several fire occurrences have since been reported in Nigeria such as the Balogun Market on Lagos Island, Oko baba Sawmill in Ebute Meta, another in Igando area where four houses were razed recently, another at Ijaniki area where a building comprising six apartments was completely razed and an eight-month-old baby roasted to death. From what was perceived slow response from authorities and agencies. It was observed that urban fire disasters receive a baffling lack of response from aid agencies whenever it occurs indicating major gaps in urban preparedness (UN Habitat, 2011). This shows that Nigeria is faced with inadequacy in responding to fire disasters of high magnitude. Rescue teams have failed  in  many  of  the  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. In most cases failure to have a comprehensive disaster policy had made responses to high risk events such as fire, floods, drought, epidemics and accidents slow  or  poorly  co-ordinated  and  unnecessarily  expensive  that  even  at  some  point leading to more problems (Kigunda, 2012).

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Fires are known to be crucial in peoples’ lives and have been used mainly for cooking, lighting and heating. Fires have also been known to be dangerous in man’s life. Several properties in Nigeria worth millions of naira have been destroyed to irrecoverable states and lives lost due to outbreak of fires. Since it is difficult to predict fire outbreaks, mitigation is essential to reducing the loss of homes, property and resources especially in the urban interface. Communication, planning processes, tactics and materials development is critical in dealing with incidences of fire occurrences.  Frameworks  for  mitigation  should  be  put  in  place  in  order  to  reduce hazard exposure. Fire prevention is also important in fire management and it requires identification of fire hazards, regular inspections, appropriate signage, education and training as well as assigned roles and qualifications. Every building owners need to put  in  place  fire prevention plan measures  to  guard  against  any  future  eventuality(Pyne, 1982).

A  fire  disaster  preparedness  plan  ranges  from  a  broad  mitigation  and  preparedness strategy to a detailed contingency plan for responding to the fire  hazard. In most plans, the operational priorities need to save human life,  meet  people’s  emergency needs (principally medical care, food, shelter and clothing) and restore facilities that are essential for health, safety and welfare (e.g. hospitals, water and sanitation, power and transport). Rehabilitation and reconstruction are also likely to be included in more strategic plans, although in practice they tend to be poorly integrated with emergency response (UN Habitat, 2002).

The World Bank and US Geological Survey estimated that economic losses worldwide from natural disasters in the 1990s could be reduced by $280bn if $40bn were invested in preparedness, mitigation and prevention strategies (Dilley and Heyman, 1995). On the Nigerian case most buildings have been lacking fire prevention and mitigation plans. Occupants of building have also fallen victims to fires due to perceived lack of preparedness. This has increased exposure to frequent fire disasters which have led to loss of lives and properties.  It’s against this background that this study  sought  to  examine  whether  past  occurrences  of  fire  disaster  had  elicited establishment of prevention and mitigation measures in business premises in Lagos.

1.3 Aim and Objectives

The aim of this study was to determine how to reduce frequent fire occurrences in buildings.

Specific objectives include;

  1. To identify the causes of fire outbreak in residential buildings.
  2. To identify the negative effects of fire outbreak in residential buildings.
  • To identify the possible fire safety measures to be taken so to avoid/minimize fire outbreak.




1.4 Research Questions

  1. What are the causes of fire outbreak in residential buildings?
  2. What are the effects of fire outbreak in residential buildings?

iii.      What are the possible fire safety measures to be taken so to avoid/minimize fire outbreak?

1.5 Research Hypotheses

The problem that this research sought to address was assessing the level of causes, prevention and preparedness in residential buildings against fire risk as envisaged in different government policy instruments with a view to recommending appropriate measures. Issues addressed in this research study include  assessing measures adopted by owners of buildings, level of preparedness among the occupants,  owners  and  managers  of residential buildings and recommending strategies to improve on  mitigation  and  preparedness  in  the  occupancy  of  those premises.

1.6 Scope and Delimitation

This study covered fire safety and preparedness in residential buildings in Nigeria. The study was narrowed down to cover residential buildings in Lagos. Factor identification was done on prior knowledge upon which emphasis was on preparedness measures adopted by building owners, managers and occupants as well as preparedness of the local authorities.

1.7 Justification/Significance of the Study

This study was undertaken after several rampant cases of fires had been reported in different parts of the country hence raising fears on the issue of fire preparedness and safety measures in place. The findings and recommendations of this study can give policy makers in the City of Lagos, owners  of  buildings  as  well  as  occupiers  the  information  useful  in  making  and redefining fire safety in their premises hence enhancing awareness.

1.8 Study Area

Lagos, sometimes referred to as Lagos State to distinguish it from Lagos Metropolitan Area, is a state located in the southwestern geopolitical zone of Nigeria. The smallest in area of Nigeria’s 36 states, Lagos State is arguably the most economically important state of the country, containing Lagos, the nation’s largest urban area. The actual population total is disputed between the official Nigerian Census of 2006, and a much higher figure claimed by the Lagos State Government. Lagos State is located in the south-western part of the Nigerian Federation. On the North and East it is bounded by Ogun State. In the West it shares boundaries with the Republic of Benin. Behind its southern borders lies the Atlantic Ocean. 22% of its 3,577 km2 are lagoons and creeks. The location of Lagos on the Nigerian map is shown in figure 1.1 below;

Fig. 1.1 Map of Lagos State

Source: Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, Lagos State.

The Housing sector is vibrant in Lagos with the Public sector having implemented a good number of housing projects in the plan period 2002-2016. The private sector has equally put up more housing programs in the city both residential and commercial. Disaster management is thus gaining momentum in the city. Several accidents identified as susceptible to people in the  city  have  been  classified  as  road,  railway,  water,  air  and  fire  accidents.  The government has therefore recommended equipping buildings, vehicles, trains and lake vessels with firefighting equipment to avert fire accidents. The challenge has however been lack of vehicles and inadequate trained personnel to handle emergencies (Republic of Nigeria, 2008).

1.9 Definition of Key Terms

Mitigation – long-term, pre-disaster planning which involves repeated expenditures on structural and non-structural issues in an attempt to reduce or eliminate future risks.

Preparedness – a state of readiness to respond to a disaster, crisis, or other fire emergency situation.

Fire Protection – study and practice of mitigating the unwanted effects of potentially destructive fires.

Fire Safety – putting in place appropriate fire equipment, management of exit routes and proper management of spaces.

Risk – it is effect of uncertainty on objectives or any undesirable event associated with work that can jeopardize the realization of the objectives.

Fire prevention – programs intended to reduce sources of ignition.

Fire – it is a natural phenomenon that occurs whenever a combustible fuel  comes  into  conduct  with  oxygen  at  an  extremely  high temperature.

Fire assembly point – an assembly ground where people gather in case of fire to take roll call.


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