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SAIA remains at the forefront of grading fire services in SA

SAIA remains at the forefront of grading fire services in SA
20-10-22 / Tau kaVodloza

SAIA remains at the forefront of grading fire services in SA

Johannesburg - In its September 2022 Bulletin, the South African Insurance Association (SAIA) speaks to its mandate by property members in 2020/21 to initiate a programme of action that would look into how the industry could assist South Africa in managing fire and localised flooding risks.

It is an open secret that the the past 10 to 20 years has seen a massive deterioration in the maintenance of buildings and infrastructure by South Africa's metros and municipalities sparking serious concerns coming out of the non-life insurance industry about the insurability of these city assets.Over the years, it has been evident that municipalities are struggling, be it due to a lack of capacity and/or capability and/or resources to implement maintenance plans, enforce city bylaws and regulations while also continuously monitoring the state of city infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the non-life insurance industry has already suffered millions of Rand in losses as a result of fire and/or weather-related incidents, exacerbated by a lack of infrastructure development and maintenance. The industry has also cited non-functional fire hydrants, some of which produce no ounce of water, let alone any water pressure for fire services to use in case of a raging building fire. Unmaintained water sprintlers and or sub-standard installations of water sprintlers in buildings have also been an issue of concern for the non-life insurance industry and SAIA, which says a combination of all these issues lead to a total loss in areas where there could have been a partial loss on a claim.

In her article featured in the Bulletin, Pamela Ramagaga, SAIA GM: Insurance Risks says that through SAIA's contracted partner, the Fire Protection Association of Southern Africa (FPASA), the industry has embarked on an expansion of the fire assessment process to create a mapping of the condition of fire hydrants with the intention of assisting fire services to know which fire hydrants have water, including the correct level of water pressure and flow to enable them to fight fires. However, this element of the initiative requires a collaborative approach with the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation in addition to the municipal relationship that SAIA and FPASA have built during the assessment processes.

For the non-life insurance industry, a lack of action in managing such risks is no longer an option as it could render these classes of insurance uninsurable. There exists a dire need for the private sector and the municipalities to partner in a bid to ensure that corrective measures, including the setting up of standards and bylaws, capacitation of the relevant departments through skills and equipment is instituted and enforced in municipalities. SAIA says the non-life insurance industry has demonstrated its willingess to partner with municipalities across South Africa through initiatives such as the Business-Adopt-A-Municipality, which has worked well, only in a few willing municipalities.

In its bid to continue to mitigate the inherent risks for its members and the non-life insurance industry in South Africa, SAIA says it has created two work streams; one that looks after a Fire Services Application based on SANS 10090:2018 (a standard that sets out the requirements of a fire service to service the communities it is assigned to) with an intention of assessing critical elements such as response times, therefore assuring respective communities that if there is a fire, the fire service will be able to respond on time and save lives. This also looks at how well-functioning the service is in terms of the availability of firefighting gear; equipment; water tankers and functional fire hydrants to ensure that once a fire service responds to a fire, it is able to fulfil its mandate efficiently.

The industry body says the second stream takes a critical view of current fire related standards and codes to ensure that they support the firefighting efforts by fire services. For instance, one of the most critical standards, which is currently 30 years old, has gone through a very rigorous process of review and is at its last stages before it can be published. This is the automatic fire sprinkler installations for fire-fighting purposes, SANS 10287. SAIA says that the industry has in the past suffered heavy losses as a result of incorrectly designed fire sprinkler systems, where in some instances, insurers have experienced a total loss scenario versus a possible partial loss. A recurance or trend of such total losses may result in the unfortunate increases of cost of insuring the risks, which will be felt by policyholders.

"It is important that these two initiatives support the efforts to manage fire risks going forward. The grading or assessment process provides empirical evidence or proof for the fire service to be able to demonstrate to their respective municipalities what their resource needs are, and gives them the ability to better quantify the necessary budgets to cater to those needs. A well-resourced fire service is essential for any community, as it is literally a matter of life or death, over and above loss or damage to property. These efforts that SAIA has embarked on therefore have far reaching benefits to the wider society. Thus far, FPASA has applied the Fire Services Application in 81 of the 278 municipalities in South Africa," says Ramagaga, adding that "FPASA has worked very closely with the National and Provincial Disaster Management Centres in seven (7) provinces and this collaboration has resulted in very fruitful engagements with respective fire service chiefs in terms of what their resource needs are, including quantifying those needs by fire services and collectively by province."

Ramagaga explained that different municipalities have differing needs, but most critical are fire trucks, tankers and pumpers because without water, the fire service cannot fight the fire.

"SAIA will continue to advocate and lobby for support for fire services in this critical journey to ensure that it accomplishes its 5-year plan of assessing the remaining municipalities, while also forging better working relationships, and welcoming further collaboration from all stakeholders involved for the betterment of fire services in SA," concludes Ramagaga.


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