Urban slums are hotbeds for fires due to the high density of wood and plastic homes packed closely together. Because slums are over-crowded and lack infrastructure, they are not easily accessible for fire trucks and other emergency services and, as a result, a small house fire can spread quickly throughout the community. This occurred this past April when more than 1,000 Manila homes were destroyed by a devastating house fire started by a single candle. In an effort to prevent future incidences of this kind, the Philippines’ city of Las Piñas has developed a pocket-sized fire extinguisher valued at $1.
The Pocket Fire Extinguisher is a compact, portable and ready-to-use pouch designed to help slum homeowners put out small fires before they escalate. Unlike standard fire extinguishers that cost $45, the Pocket Fire Extinguisher is within financial reach for most urban poor households. The product was initiated by the government of Las Piñas who tasked Filipino design agency DM9 JaymeSyfu with developing a product that was affordable and accessible to the city’s population of 600,000, many of whom live in slums.
This clever innovation works by combining vinegar and baking soda, which together yield a foamy carbon dioxide capable of stifling small fires. To trigger the reaction, the user simply needs to pop the capsule inside the sachet and tear off the edge of the package (see video for demo). It was inspired by children’s science experiments and applies the same tried and tested technique used to simulate a volcanic eruption.
So far, the Pocket Fire Extinguisher has been distributed to 4,000 households in two major Las Piñas slums and training seminars have been provided to demonstrate appropriate use of the device. Plans are underway to scale up its distribution nationwide and project stakeholders are confident it will deliver results. Gella Valle, a representative of the DM9 JaymeSyfu agency, notes that 40 percent of Manila fires occurred in high-density urban poor areas last year, but with the Pocket Fire Extinguisher, they hope to reduce it to 15 percent or less.
Fires pose a major threat for the Philippines where there are an estimated 8,000 house fires every year. What begins as a small-scale fire can often end in the tragic loss of lives and property. The Pocket Fire Extinguisher provides a very simple, inexpensive solution to this issue, and one that is tailored directly to the needs of the urban poor. Given its small size, portability and cost, this fire prevention product could very likely become a staple item for poor urban households throughout the Global South.
Check out the video for more information or share your thoughts below.