Presentation to the Liquid
Petroleum Gas Safety Seminar, October 2002.
increases in insurers fire losses has brought into focus the seriousness
of the countrys loss statistics.
Cost to insurers
Insurance industry figures reflect the national
trend, with statistics over the past eight years indicating a dramatic increase
in the value of claims paid. R400 million was paid out in 1990; this increased
to R1.4 billion in just eight years. In five years from 1993 to 1998, the total
value of claims quadrupled.
Premium increases have been unable to keep up with
the spiralling claims, and most insurers are now making significant losses on
their fire account.
When analysing the reasons for the increasing
losses, the first question asked by the insurance industry was whether there
was a corresponding increase in the number of claims. An analysis of the
industry figures showed that the number of claims per annum had in fact had
decreased since 1990.
Significant increases in the total amount
paid out by insurers on fire losses, against a decline in the number of claims,
gives rise to much concern. The graph shows that the average value of each
claim has risen dramatically since 1990.
The national loss
The direct cost of fire is still increasing
in South Africa. Figures that were prepared by the FPASA for the year 1999,
reflect a loss of R 2.4 billion. That is 0.3 per cent of the countrys
gross national product. It also represents losses of R196,404,416 a month,
R6,546,813 a day and R273,000 an hour. Bear in mind that the loss figure
excludes fires underground, consequential losses and losses which involved
uninsured, or underinsured properties and we begin to get a sense of the
To gauge the true cost of the threat of fire
to society, calculations would need to be done for the cost of public fire
services, public fire education, fire research and the cost of fire protection
equipment in buildings. Add to that the cost of fatalities and even the cost of
treating burn injuries and the figures inflate to imponderable proportions.
This calculation has not been done, nor will it be in the future.
Cost of fire service provision
An exercise in the cost of fire brigade
services in the East Rand has been undertaken and it serves as a useful example
of cost to ratepayers.
The comparative figures used come from the
Ekurhuleni Metropolitan area and are taken from the Councils audited
statements for the fire service alone and reflect the operating budget for
1999 Operating Budget (m)
Cost per incident
Cost per resident
Lets presuppose that the Cost per
incident average of R 9,514.20 is typical for the country as a whole,
then the total of 51,369 fires responded to by fire brigades during 1999 would
R488,734 940, giving an overall loss figure
of R2.9 billion.
Cost to persons
The first annual report of the National Injury
Mortality Surveillance System (NIMSS), was published in November 2000. NIMSS is
a mortuary-based system capturing 21 information items describing the
who, what, when, where and how of fatal injuries.
This report covers 1 January to 31 December 1999,
14,829 fatal injuries were registered at 10
mortuaries in five provinces. This is approximately 25 per cent of the
estimated 60,000 fatal injuries occurring for the whole country each year, and
the 1999 sample was biased to mainly urban areas.
If we concentrate on the incidents involving burns,
in this category of the manner of death, we learn that burns ranked first in
the age group one to four years old. In the category of other accidental deaths
including burns, falls, drowning, etc., 41 per cent of the 1,149 deaths were as
a result of burns. Burns were the leading external cause of death under one
year of age and the second predominant cause in the age group 1 to 4.
Pedestrian injuries lead the age category of 1 to 14, with burns coming in
second. There were 1:5 males per female burn deaths and most burns occurred in
private homes. Blood alcohol concentrations (BACs), were positive in 52 per
cent of the burn fatalities.
Of the 14,824 cases where precise information was
available, burns caused 823 deaths. This represents 9 per cent of accident
deaths. Burn deaths also occurred most frequently in private homes and were the
leading cause of death in residential institutions (e.g. hostels) and on
Figure 30 shows that
there were 1,169 deaths due to burns, falls, drowning and other accidents. Most
were due to burns (41 per cent), followed by other accidents (27%), drowning
(20%) and falls (12%).