1 Executive Summary
Lebanon is hosting at least one million Syrian refugees officially registered with the UN, many of them living in informal tented settlements and residential and non-residential buildings scattered around the country. Unfortunately, tented settlements and substandard buildings, due to their informality and spontaneity as they are built in an ad hoc manner, are at high risk of fire.
Persons with disabilities, elderly, woman and children are the most vulnerable to burn injuries especially when living in overcrowded structures, using unsafe cooking and heating appliances or open fires. Therefore, fire prevention and control initiatives are important and necessary in all shelter types (informal settlements, residential and non- residential buildings) where some or all of these conditions are found. Therefore, comprehensive, cost-effective and evidenced-based practices are needed to support and promote the safety, health and well-being of vulnerable populations.
Presently, there is no national regulation in Lebanon for site planning that incorporate appropriate fire mitigation. Ad-hoc fire prevention programs had been provided through Collective Site Management and Coordination (CSMC), UNHCR funded shelter programs and other shelter partners, providing fire safety trainings to a limited number of informal settlements. The Shelter Sector has taken an initiative to include fire safety indicators within the logical framework in the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan LCRP 2017 and LCRP 2018, when there was no sector in charge with the responsibility and authority around fire prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, salvage and investigation.
Inadequate fire guidelines globally are due, in part, to the lack of estimates of the burden of fire-related injuries or structural loss in humanitarian settings. Fire prevention, preparedness and response (FPPR) activities shouldn’t be looked at from a single sectoral perspective, rather from a cross-sectoral one. FPPR activities can and should be mainstreamed throughout the various Shelter, WASH, Education, Health and Protection sectors. Although the National responsibility and authority around FPPR lies with the Lebanese Civil Defense as a governmental organization, the extent of their resources and capacity have been overstretched and become limited, following the large influx of displaced into the country.
To address the above mentioned gaps, this guideline was developed by an initiative from the Shelter sector with an aim to promote best practices of prevention, preparedness and response that will reduce fire-related hazards among the residents of informal settlements, residential and non-residential buildings in Lebanon, and promote the development of long-term, harmonized cross-sectoral strategies of fire hazard reduction that will bring sustainable solutions and incorporate disaster resilience and mitigation into actions and decisions.
As the crisis becomes protracted, the socio-economic situation of many displaced Syrians has worsened. Over a million displaced people are currently registered in Lebanon - the highest refugee population per capita in the world. Seventy percent of the displaced Syrian households and the entire population of Palestine Refugees from Syria are severely or highly economically vulnerable, with limited rights in the country. The accumulation of debt and depletion of assets and savings has caused many of the displaced to reside in hazardous, inadequate or overcrowded shelter conditions. The Government of Lebanon prohibits the establishment and construction of formal camp settlements, and restricts the types of shelter materials that can be provided to those displaced. These restrictions create barriers to agencies attempting to deliver safety improvements, and can obstruct the provision of less flammable and safer material to prevent fire outbreaks. Informal Settlements are defined as settlements that were established in an unplanned and unmanaged manner, which means they are generally unrecognized. The majority (73 percent) of the displaced population are residing in residential buildings. Twenty five percent of these shelters are deemed below minimum physical humanitarian standards. Of the nine percent living in non-residential buildings – already considered below standard as they were not originally designed for residential use – more than 48 percent4 are considered so far below standards that they are deemed unsuitable for upgrading to adequate standards.