Vivo Energy, Uganda Police launch fire safety education

Vivo Energy Uganda has today launched a fire safety education campaign for schools in Uganda, titled Cool Kids Stop Fires, as a measure towards reducing the incidents of fire outbreaks in schools and resulting injuries, fatalities and loss of property. The campaign will be implemented in partnership with the Uganda Police Directorate of Fire Prevention and Rescue Services and the Ministry of Education and Sports.

“Maintaining the highest international Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Quality (HSSEQ) standards is an integral part of our business. We would like to use our extensive expertise and knowledge to support the nation in curbing school fires which have been on the rise and pose a significant threat to the lives of our children and school property. Through this campaign, we will impart fire safety education to students and stakeholders of educational institutions and skill them in the prevention, detection, and management of school fires to avert the loss of life and property,” said Johan Grobbelaar, Managing Director, Vivo Energy Uganda.

According to the Uganda Police 2021 Annual Crime Report, a total of 1,258 fire emergencies were handled in 2021 compared to 1,015 in 2020, marking a 23.9% increase. Fire incidents were mainly attributed to negligence, electrical short circuits, charcoal stoves, and unattended candles/lamps among others.

Speaking during the launch of the campaign, Mr. John Martin Okoth Ochola, the Inspector General of Police said school fires were on the increase, especially during the first and second term of the year and in the months of May to August.

“We have registered over fifty school fires during this period, with the majority occurring in boarding schools and specifically the school dormitories. These rampant school fires present risks to the lives of the children, their property, properties of the affected schools and a disruptive effect to the economy of the country. There is need for mass sensitisation, firefighting training and enhancement of fire safety measures by schools through installation of smoke detectors and alarms. We are grateful for the support by Vivo Energy Uganda which will help us reach even more school staff and students with this important and lifesaving initiative.”

Government interventions to curb the rising fire outbreaks include the institution of a committee by Ministry of Works and Transport to review educational, commercial and residential facilities to gauge compliance to set fire prevention standards. The committee is comprised of the Uganda Police, Ministry of Works, Ministry of Education and Sports, Private School owners, Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.

“This campaign has various components including school outreaches to enhance fire safety knowledge and preparedness, donation of fire detection equipment and mass sensitization on fire safety. Vivo Energy brings on board key assets including a strong HSSEQ set of standards, culture, expertise, and skilled staff with time tested firefighting experience, and with a desire to impart fire safety education and basics in fire management by way of training to school heads and students,” Mr Grobbelaar added.

The Guest of Honour, Hon. Dr. Joyce Moriku Kaducu, State Minister for Primary Education hailed the partnership between Vivo Energy Uganda and Uganda Police, describing it as a timely initiative and a much-needed response to the rampant school fires that are disruptive to the education sector and the learning processes for school children.

“Schools are meant to be safe learning spaces for our school children. It is truly disheartening to see that the high rates of school fires that go unchecked are due to negligence and the lack of preventative measures such as installation of recommended firefighting equipment. Following the directive issued on fire safety management in schools, the Ministry shall step up inspection of this aspect to ensure compliance in educational institutions. I encourage headteachers to prioritise the safety of the children entrusted in their care by implementing these preventative measures,” said Hon. Dr. Kaducu.

According to the Uganda Police, urgent issues that need to be addressed include security enhancement at schools with dormitories guarded when students are off, installation of fire alarms and cameras by schools, fire sensitisation as well as drills and regular inspections of schools for compliance to safety standards.

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