Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Updated data on shack fires

Real data analysed on the cause of shack fires

What really causes shack fires? Most people have a theory and many products have been developed to try and prevent them. However shack fires continue and when real data is looked at, in 2012, 337 days out of 365 days there was a shack fire incident. Lives are lost and millions of uninsured goods as well as ID books, marriage certificates and cash. So I asked the Cape Town Fire Department for real data on shack fires so I could possibly find a more innovative solution. The data was revealing! The worst day by far for a shack fire to occur was a Sunday. Close on the heels of a Sunday were Thursdays, Saturdays and Mondays. This was clue number one. The worst month was December. Close on the heels were November and February. This was clue number two. The most prevalent times of a shack fire was between 12.30am and 5am. This would average out at 2.30 am. This was clue number three. When I asked the fire department what they thought was the cause of most shack fires their immediate gut reaction without analyzing the data was excessive drinking. I completely concur based on the data. When people drink excessively more tend to on a Saturday, Sunday, Friday and Wednesday night leading into the early hours of the next morning. This data is aligned to alcohol sales in shibeens on these days. December is a time when less people are actually in the townships as many return to their traditional homes. However holiday time is drinking time. The timing of the events places the last piece in the puzzle.
The effects of excessive drinking mean that when people arrive home to their shack in the dark they need to provide some light. As there is no electricity a candle is lit. But when one is inebriated this is a recipe for disaster. Drunkenness also causes slower reaction times, so if a candle does fall over slow reaction times mean disaster.
People when drunk often fall asleep leaving candles on!
When drunken people are often hungry as well. Cooking when drunk will lead to mistakes no matter what type of stove or device you may use.
The data shows that the combination of being drunk and reckless and using mechanisms like candles (light) and stoves (hunger) seem to be the cause of most shack fire incidents.
As an innovator and an economist new solutions can be tested. Very cheap free torches should be mandatory at all shibeens when drinkers leave. The case for cheap torches is further highlighted by the fact that 67% of all deaths on our roads are pedestrians who are not visible and often drunk!
Bulky cheap meals should be provided to all patrons that include mostly starches and people should be encouraged to eat before they leave. This means they have no need to light a gas stove when coming home. The same meals could be provided throughout the day to other patrons for a fee.
Lastly chaperones, preferably young unemployed men should be trained to lead people home, make sure everything is OK and leave when the drunken man has fallen asleep.
These solutions will decrease shack fires; create job opportunities, as well as manufacturing and distribution capabilities.
Alcohol companies need to take some responsibility as they provide the product and although they use the argument that its up to the consumer to be responsible, it only takes one consumer to destroy the lives of thousands at a time. The reason alcohol companies have not been sued yet is because it is so hard to determine the cause of a shack fire, nigh impossible. However the alcohol companies should be supporting all types of innovation connected to shack fires as the data clearly shows that without alcohol the chances of shack fires would certainly drop. I hope that by analyzing the data and writing this article will give credence to the fire departments gut feeling that drunkenness does indeed cause most shack fires.