Wednesday, February 4, 2015

South Africa inventions aim to stop slum fires

Terra Daily via AFP: South Africans social entrepreneurs have come up with inventions aimed at curbing deadly fires and floods in the country's crowded informal settlements. A turquoise detector no bigger than a pack of cigarettes is among the innovations being showcased at a technology exhibition in the capital Pretoria.

While a conventional fire detector is set off by smoke, Lumkani, meaning "be aware" in the Xhosa language, looks for another signal: heat. "Shack environments tend to be fairly smokey because of a lack of electrification," Lumkani's co-designer, University of Cape Town engineering lecturer Samuel Ginsberg, said.

"Shack dwellers often use fire inside their shacks for cooking. So a normal smoke detector, which is what you would use in your home, is not effective -- it would false trigger far too often." Lumkani's alarm is set off instead by a quick and unusual rise in temperature.

Fires spread quickly in the dense slums that ring many towns and cities in South Africa. Packed close together, the shacks of wood planks and plastic sheeting are often razed to the ground within minutes. A series of mid-summer fires in 2013, fuelled by gusty winds, tore through the Cape Town townships of Khayelitsha and Thembeni, leaving around 4,000 homeless in just two days...

Soweto, outside Johannesburg, shot by Medpro, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

No comments: