Design for social impact



Lumkani is a low-cost fire alarm and community alert system. It connects to other devices within range to create a community-wide response when there is a fire detected.  Across
the globe, fires are a frequent and devastating occurrence in informal settlements due to
the density of households, the use of unsafe cooking, lighting and heating methods, and
the flammable materials which homes are often built with. The combination of these factors
enable shack fires to spread rapidly, easily destroying hundreds of homes and displacing thousands of people in a single blaze.

In 2013, three massive fires ripped through South Africa’s largest slum, Khayelitsha, displacing over 5,000 people. This inspired a team to come together and create Lumkani – a start-up and social enterprise. The team designed a new fire alert system that detects heat instead of smoke to notify the closest fire station, thus giving residents and emergency services much more time to act. The GPS-based fire location system also notifies the surrounding community – including neighbours within a 60-meter radius – so that they can also take action before professional help arrives.

By providing both inhabitants and firemen with real-time information, the new system will
have the capacity to significantly reduce the number of spreading fires in the world’s most vulnerable communities. The first detectors distributed in December 2014 have already prevented two dangerous fires from spreading in densely populated communities.


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