In Africa it is common for people to live under tight security. Some houses you visit are more like a fortress than a place of abode. You will have a house surrounded by a large wall and an equally large gate. The gate is locked with a large padlock. When you go inside, even more security, in my two bedroom house, I have a security door at the front entrance and one at the back. My front windows have a sliding security bar which is locked at all times. The back windows have louvers so are accompanied by metal bars which are designed so that it would take a thief a day to break through them.
Other households have bars which go across the doors at night, trap doors at the back, extra security doors and a whole bunch of locks and padlocks to ensure that they don’t wake up in the middle of the night to find that their household contents have not “walked away” in the middle of the night. However, sometimes I think we Africans pay too much attention to keeping people in but not enough on how to get out in case of emergencies.
As you know the dumsor has started again. A schedule was finally sent out a couple of weeks ago, however, I don’t know what rhyme or reason went into it. We were told in accordance with your group, it would be 12 hours off and 24 hours on. From what I can see, it just goes off randomly at leisure and the schedule was just put out to keep people from complaining. This on-off will obviously affect electricity and ultimately could cause a fire. So what does one do when you live in a house which requires a thousand set of different keys before you can get out onto the porch.
A colleague of mine experienced this recently, we were told that the fire was caused by a candle, while he told us that it was due to electrics, either way it was caused with intent or inadvertently by the dumsor. Apparently it started out in the kids room and they managed to get out in time to get to their parents room to raise the alarm. They ran to the front door and when they got there, after taking the bars off the door, they had the second door to contend with. Luckily they managed to get out in time but just about their whole lives went up in flames.
The second thing we don’t seem to think about is insurance. Especially those who are renting, I had to take out insurance (very expensive insurance which I have to pay in USD) but I wonder how many people willingly take out this piece of paper. Everyone does it for their car, is it that they think that the house and anything in it, is indestructible, or is it that (for those renting), they think that because it is not their property that they shouldn’t bother.
We can at times be more reactive than proactive, so in case you hadn’t thought of it, here’s some food for thought. When you go home at night, think about how in case of emergency you can let yourself out of the house quickly while ensuring that it is not so insecure that you let unwanted things in.
Secondly, buy fire proof doors, at least if the worst event were to happen and it starts in one room, it will not spread so quickly to the rest of your house.
Thirdly, fire detector alarms. In the western world it is more or less compulsory, here, even if it were, there would probably be nobody to check up on it. I have to admit, I am an offender, but especially in a large house, putting a smoke alarm in key points could save your life.
We are told to a fire extinguisher in the car, I have one in the house too. I don’t know how to use it, but I am sure if anything were to happen I would figure it out. They are not too costly, and I assume it is easy to use, if you do have one, make sure that it hasn’t expired (otherwise it defeats the whole purpose in having one).
Lastly, insurance, get the whole works, theft, fire, damage whatever you can insure against, I suggest you do so, because prevention is better than cure. Even if the house is not yours, the content will be and you really can’t leave your life in the hands of a landlord.
Remember, safety first, and ensure to turn off the switches and unplug the electrical equipment before you leave for work and before you go to bed. For those of us who do not have the luxury of a generator should also ensure that all lights are out and no naked flames are left exposed. As the saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry.