Fire Sensors – Kenya Red Cross Society, Nairobi, Kenya

The Fire Sensors for Safer Urban Communities project aims to develop low-cost networked fire sensors for informal settlements to reduce the impact of fire outbreaks through improved response.


Urban informal settlements are dense, tightly woven and prone to fire outbreak. When fires occur, they spread quickly causing property damage, injuries and loss of lives. Despite this, the need for reducing fire risks is often not prioritized and remains underfunded. To face this situation, the Kenya Red Cross program, a worldwide voluntary organization, is installing fire sensors within the households at a community level. Once a fire is detected -and this is the novelty of these fire sensors- a signal is sent to the homeowner through an SMS and an alert to response units including the fire brigade, and the Kenya Red Cross emergency operation centre, improving the time of detection of fires as well as the response time.


  •  Fire sensors devices were installed in +1,000 Kenyan households..
  • Creation of the Kenya Red Cross App to allow citizens to share geo-located information on emergency news and alerts in real time in Kenya.
  • The Kenya Red Cross Society launched The Innovation Challenge, a competition to receive ideas and proposals from citizens and entrepreneurs to reduce the risks and impacts of fires in informal settlements around Kenya.

Did you know?

The Fire Sensor project fostered The Innovation Challenge, a competition aiming at advancing a community of practice around innovation in reducing fire risks in the fields of education and awareness, fire stations to respond and prevention and preparation.

Sustainability and Replicability

This heat monitoring network is making use of low-cost heat sensors, designed to be low profile, robust, and inexpensive. This provides a significant advantage over traditional weather monitoring equipment, which tends to be too expensive and often too large to install at high density in informal urban settlements.

This new system would be the first high-density heat monitoring network for informal settlements deployed anywhere in the developing world. Furthermore, this idea is novel because extreme heat exposure is measured within living areas instead of at the nearest weather station (typically at an airport), taking into account expected differences arising from informal settlements.

Lessons learned

It was crucial to design the fire sensors system in close collaboration with community residents. Strong community involvement is allowing for more subtle health impacts associated with heat exposures in informal settlements to be delineated.

Take action

  • Spread the message and promote the Fire Sensor initiative. Talk with your friends, write an article, and share this content in your networks.
  • Find out and learn how you can replicate this initiative in your city.
  • Make a donation to Kenya Red Cross so, they can keep improving and saving lives.

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