‘Make fire safety a priority’

Teoh (left) says most fire-related deaths occur at home and in vehicles because they lack fire safety measures.

INSTALLING smoke detectors outside bedrooms at home, carrying a mini fire extinguisher in the vehicle and placing a spare house key in a strategic location are some precautions the public can take if they need to safely escape from a fire.

These steps were suggested by non-governmental organisation Fire Preventors’ Society to residents of Damansara Utama, Petaling Jaya at a fire prevention and demonstration workshop.

The session was organised by Pusat Wanita Berdaya Bandar Utama and the SS20 Central Zone Residents’ Association.

“It sounds like a cliche but it is better to take preventive measures as nothing can replace a lost life,” society founder Rueben Teoh said at the workshop.

Most fire-related deaths occur at home and in vehicles because of the lack of fire safety measures in them, he said.

“People often survive office building fires because preventive measures like fire drills and exit plans are in place.

“However, most houses in our country do not have single-smoke alarm or even fire extinguisher. This needs to change,” Teoh added.

He pointed out that a common but dangerous practice among some Malaysians was the use of mobile phones at petrol stations.

“Turn off the engine when you are refuelling and everyone must stop using the phone at the petrol station. Even passengers mustn’t use the phone to play games or answer any call while the vehicle is being refuelled.”

A resident looking at a range of fire extinguishers on display during the workshop.
A resident looking at a range of fire extinguishers on display during the workshop.

He said it was also compulsory for all transport vehicles in the country to carry a fire extinguisher. The quick action of putting out a vehicle fire could prevent it from exploding and save lives.

“In case a vehicle catches fire on the road and it does not have an extinguisher, the public can stop any bus, lorry or taxi and ask for their extinguisher.

“Vehicle fires are among the worst as people are mostly conscious when they are trapped.”

For the home, Teoh advised the public to keep a fire extinguisher in the bedroom, carry out a fire drill with the family and inform everyone in the household of the gathering point outside the house in case of fire.

“There have been many cases of fire victims entering a house on fire, thinking their loved ones are still trapped inside.

“However, they may have escaped through the back door and sought refuge behind the house. Always inform family members to gather at the same location outside in such cases,” he added.

Teoh said he was motivated to carry out fire prevention awareness campaigns after an 11-year-old autistic child of a family friend died in a house fire in Penang.

According to him, the victim’s mother committed suicide a few days later because of the unbearable loss.

“The tragedy was personal as I witnessed the family’s grief. A fire that claims lives is not easily forgotten by surviving family members and the community.”

Meanwhile, Damansara Fire and Rescue Department firefighter Mohd Shahir Aziz urged community members, especially youth, to join the department’s voluntary “Komuniti Bomba” outfit.

He also urged residents to not block fire hydrants with items such as flower pots or plants.

“We have had trouble locating hydrants in emergency situations at night because they were hidden behind plants,” he said.

Also present at the talk was Bandar Utama assemblyman Jamaliah Jamaluddin.

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