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Balls that fight fire by exploding

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By COLLINS OMULO
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It takes billions of shillings to put up development properties, but rarely do they have mechanisms for prevention and mitigation of fires, despite the interventions being a small percentage of the cost of the development.

With disaster response and preparedness in the country wanting, a number of properties have been razed to ashes as fire-fighting departments watch helplessly due to lack of water, inaccessibility, or grounded fire engines. Investors are left to count losses running into billions of shillings.

But fire outbreaks are not only limited to high-end properties. Many fires have been reported in residential homes.

Malfunctioning of electrical appliances, human error or negligence, power surges and unattended to electrical appliances are some of the leading triggers of fires in commercial or residential properties.

In May, fire gutted a section of Sarit Centre Shopping Mall. Although the inferno was contained within a few minutes, extensive damage had already been done.

More than two years ago, La Miguela Hotel Gardens in Ruaka, Kiambu County, caught fire after a chef forgot to switch off a chips fryer at night, leading to a fire. The hotel lost Sh1.8 million in the process.

The incident triggered the director of the hotel, Mr Jimmy Kuria, to think of looking for affordable, friendly and economical ways of averting similar incidents in future, preferably automatically, without human presence.

After a year or so of researching on the latest fire-fighting technologies through the internet, Mr Kuria and his wife Isabella settled on Elide Fireball technology from Thailand.

It took them a year before they settled on the Thai technology.

“We then went to Thailand with my wife and one of my managers to get demonstrations and training on how it is used,” Mr Kuria says.

La Miguela Holdings Managing Director Wanyeki Kago says the fireball has a runner fuse and a pyrotechnic detonator inside it, which explodes once the runner fuse catches fire or comes into contact with flame.

He says that the ball is more effective on initial fires and most of the time where it has been deployed, it has acted even before the flames have gotten out of hand as a result of its capability to explode on its own and within three seconds.

“One of the things that happens with fires is that people wait and call the fireman after they have been unable to put out the fire. By the time the fireman comes, the fire has gotten out of control.”

This unique ball comes in handy when it is installed in fire-prone areas like where there is a generator or above an electrical circuit breaker so it can explode on its own if there is a short circuit and smother the flames by use of a dry powder, mono ammonium phosphate, contained in it.

Moreover, the sound of its explosion also acts as a fire alarm as the explosion will alert that there is fire.

The fireball is not coming to replace the existing methods of extinguishing fires, but to complement with a finer and more efficient way. “The building can burn with the cylinder hanging there because it has no explosive device, but the ball will explode, giving you the alarm and also extinguishing any flame that could have progressed into a major inferno,” Ms Kago points out.

A fire ball.

A fire ball. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO

Mr Kuria, a diploma in Civil Engineering holder, explains that in a domestic setting, the fireball can be installed above an electrical circuit-breaker or the consumer unit where fire can occur, in the kitchen, in the laundry area, where ironing is usually done, and in the sitting room, where most electric appliances are.

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The ball can be used by anyone, a child or an old person, as it is light at only 1.5 kilogrammes and six inches wide in diameter. Anyone can carry and launch it while at a distance, ensuring you are safe from the raging flames.

In contrast, a fire extinguisher cylinder requires training to use and also one has to aim at the base of the fire, exposing the user to toxic fumes and smokes as one need to be close to the fire while using it.

He adds that the outward explosion of the fireball is not concussive as you can explode it while holding it. “The explosion is mild but forceful enough to disperse the dry powder within 10 square metres. For a cylinder, you have to be trained on how to remove the safety pin, aim at the base, and have the energy to carry it”.

Mr Kuria states that the fireball can also extinguish Class A fires like flammables from solids like wood, paper; Class B fires from gases; and Class C fires from electrical malfunctions.

It can also work where there is a shortage of water.

In matters cost, a single fireball goes for Sh15,000 and has a lifespan of five years with its efficacy dropping only by 20 per cent in its sixth year.

For a cylinder, the cost is between Sh8,000 and Sh9,000 but has to be refurbished every six months at a cost of between Sh1,500 and Sh2,000 depending on the supplier.

“In five years, the cylinder may have reached Sh20,000 in servicing and so if you look at the compounded cost of servicing and initial cost, it will be more expensive than the fireball.”

Mr George Gitau, a fire-fighting consultant attached to the Kiambu County Fire Department, says that most often, people don’t give much thought to fires breaking out in their homes, so they lack the necessary fire-fighting equipment that could save properties and lives.

This is despite the fact that many homes are filled with electronics and appliances that can be triggers of fires when they overload electrical outlets.

Dishwashers, dryers, microwaves, refrigerators, toasters are some of the appliances that can cause fire.

In most cases, he says, fires mostly occur around main switches, sound systems, overloaded sockets, fryers, and in the kitchen — unattended cooking and forgotten immersion heaters, isolated places like the generator area, and where an iron box is used.

Mr Gitau says one should first assess the risk areas or get someone who understands more about fire-related matters to point out the areas.

He points out that after one has done a risk assessment and identified probable fire points, the fireball covers eight to 10 square metres and should be mounted not more than 12 centimetres above the risk area and in a static position for it to work effectively.

“In school, place it where it is visible but make sure the prefect is responsible so that it cannot be removed. Also, have some with the watchmen. In cases of a dorm, it is more about active deployment where you can either roll it to the fire or throw it into the fire.”

Once exposed to a naked flame, the ball’s fuse, which runs across it on both sides, detonates at 85 degrees via self-ignition.

The exploding ball releases mono-ammonium phosphate, which also displaces oxygen once it gets into the air. Once dispersed, the powder coats whatever was burning.

“A fire triangle has three components: heat, fuel and oxygen. And if you remove one, it goes out. The fireball targets the oxygen. When it explodes, the explosion creates a vacuum by displacing air, meaning that with the oxygen gone, the fire will definitely go off,” Mr Gitau says.

According to the fire consultant, the fireball is more effective when the fire is at the incipient stage or at worst at the growth stage where its dry powder phosphate component smothers whatever was burning and chokes it of oxygen before it becomes uncontrollable.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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