[NOMADE DES MERS] The low-tech fire extinguisher from South Africa

Carnet de bord

Publication date: November 22, 2016
Author: Caroline Pultz
Location: South Africa

Caroline with the low-tech extinguisher © Sidonie Frances

Fire extinguisher in South Africa #

Fires in slums are a recurring problem with often devastating consequences. In South Africa, an average of 10 shack fires per day have been recorded every year, causing thousands of families to lose their belongings and their homes, without any possibility of compensation. The fires, often detected late, spread at high speed in these dwellings made of flammable materials. Prevention is of course preferable to reaction, but people often lack the tools to react quickly in case of a problem.

In South Africa, a standard fire extinguisher costs about 10€. As fires are very frequent, this amount can become very important for a family with a modest income.

Low-tech fire extinguisher bottle © Low-tech Lab

The low-tech extinguisher #

This low-tech fire extinguisher model (above) is made primarily from salvaged materials, and the products to be purchased are common and available for less than one euro.
The technology was developed by two South African students at the University of Cape Town. The design is inspired by the work of Kahn and Firfirey (2011). It has been tested and approved in the presence of city firefighters, and is effective against type A (ordinary fuels such as wood or paper) and B (flammable liquids such as petroleum, kerosene or LPG) fires, the most recurrent types of fires in slums. Unfortunately, its implementation on site has not been developed due to lack of time and resources, and the technology has not yet been taken up by other study groups or organizations, but the tutorial has been passed on by the Nomade des Mers team to various people who have noted its usefulness. Its implementation in the slums requires a lot of work but does not present a major challenge, mainly because it does not conflict with the habits of the households. As people may be reluctant to systematically make this low-tech every time a fire is put out (a very recurrent case), models need to be imagined and developed to make it and spread it easily.

Fire extinguishing with the low-tech extinguisher © Sidonie Frances

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