Lumkani receives funding from GSMA to install an additional 20,000 fire detectors in South African homes


Lumkani, a South African fire detection startup has installed its early warning fire detection system in 20,000 homes across South Africa in a move expected to put a stop to accidental fires in high fire risk homes in the country.

The latest addition makes 40,000 high fire risk homes installed with the devices by the firm in the country’s informal settlements with this system.

The project was funded by the GSMA Mobile for Development Programme, via the Mobile for Humanitarian Innovation Fund, to create resilience in the most vulnerable communities of South Africa.

According to the firm, within the first six months of operation, the system has already reduced the spread of fire in 16 incidents via its community-wide alert in the early phases of a fire.

The system detects fire alarm in every home within 60m of the fire rings, and sends text messages to all residents, so even those at work or elsewhere can respond.

Francois Petousis, Director of Humanitarian Projects at Lumkani in a statement said, “Lumkani has always had the dream of making communities more resilient to the devastation of shack fires. Having the opportunity to cover an additional 20,000 South African homes with our early warning system has been a big step towards realising this. Every week we hear stories of people who have heard our fire alarms ringing in a neighbourhood, or have received our SMS saying that their house is on fire which has helped them to race home to put out a small fire before it caused any damage. That is huge motivation for us to reach even more homes across our country.”

One such story is that of Nomfusi, who had a Lumkani fire detector installed in her home on the 9th of November 2018 in the Taiwan Informal Settlement, in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Her account of the fire that took place on the 7th of February 2019 is a terrifying one. Nomfusi says the Lumkani device woke her up and she secured her children through a window.

Apart from early warning technology, Lumkani has launched an insurance product with Hollard allowing people to insure their informal homes and all its contents against fire. Lumkani captures geo-location information on its app to create ‘addresses’ for informal homes, and with that, enable these properties to be insured against fire. Lumkani launched this product in September 2016.

Another recipients of Lumkani’s system, Babalwa had a fire detector installed in her home on the 15th of November 2018. On the 30th of that month, she bought Lumkani fire cover to protect her home. “A few months later, I was visiting a friend of mine and then suddenly, I received an SMS from Lumkani that my house was burning. So, I called my family members who live near me to quickly go save my things.”

She still does not know how the fire started, but because of the Lumkani alert, her family managed to save some of her belongings, and with the help of her neighbours, they put out the fire. Babalwa was then able to claim for what she lost in the fire and received a pay-out for her couch, clothing and Tupperware which had been damaged in the blaze.

“This is what Lumkani exists to do. Mobile-enabled early warning technology mitigated the spread of fire in Babalwa’s home, reducing the damage it caused, and whatever was lost was reclaimed through Lumkani’s fire cover product. This provides real protection to those who traditionally have had none,” shares Petousis.

He concludes: “Through our early warning systems in many of South Africa’s highest fire-risk areas, we have seen first-hand the impact that this simple intervention has had in preventing devastation amongst the most vulnerable communities in our country.”