PETALING JAYA: Things are usually hectic during the holiday period.
Families either rush to 'balik kampung' and try to avoid the Raya exodus or have a never ending stream of guests over to celebrate.
Whatever your Raya plans are, there are ample opportunities for small moments of absentmindedness, which may result in accidents at home.
Based on statistics provided by the Fire and Rescue Department, residential premises are most likely to catch fire during the holidays.
In July last year, 370 of 563 cases of structural fires during the Raya period were from residential premises.
To avoid any unwanted incidences, Fire Investigation Division's assistant director general Edwin Galan Teruki has some advice on how to ensure a safe Hari Raya season for family and friends.
Here are some fire safety tips to consider before you start your Raya holidays.
1. Use only SIRIM approved electrical items.
According to Teruki, most of the cases the department received were caused by electrical fires.
And oftentimes, these fires are caused by electrical items which have not received safety certification from theStandards and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia (Sirim).
"In Malaysia, there are many electrical appliances which do not have Sirim certification, especially the cheaper items. This includes even switch ports and extention chords," he said.
“We have done many tests (on electrical items without safety certification).
Take for example, water kettles which are not approved by Sirim. It was found that they have many failures which can cause fires," he said.
Teruki explained that when appliances are left switched on and there is a short circuit, the appliance will automatically cut off according to safety standards.
"But certain times, when the applicances are old and are not up to standard, it will not function well. This can cause a fire," he said, adding that the materials used in uncertified electrical appliances can also be of low quality.
Teruki urged homeowners to check their housing electrical wiring often, at least every 10 years or so to ensure the wirings are up to standard.
2. Unplug all electrical items before 'balik kampung'.
While plugs are attached to the socket, there may still be current running through the wires.
"Our advice is that if you are going to balik kampung, do not just turn off the switches. Make sure you remove the plugs from the sockets in the house," Teruki said.
“Except for the refrigerator. Apart from that, take out the plugs," he said, adding that it has also become a practice in his home to remove all plugs from sockets before going on holiday.
3. Avoid placing flammable items close to power or heat sources.
This may seem obvious, but it is still a common practice in Malaysian homes.
"Normally in kitchens you see people place recipe books, magazines or newspapers close to the switchboard and other electrical items. That is one of the causes of house fires," said Teruki.
"Make sure housekeeping, especially in the kitchen, is proper," he said.
He pointed out situations where people pile books, papers and other flammable items on top of wires, switches or extension cords around the house.
"If there is an electrical spark but there is no material for the spark to catch on to, probably it would not have caused a fire. But fires can happen due to improper housekeeping," he said.
4. Do not overload your electrical sockets.
When guests come over to the house, it is normal to want to switch on many appliances - fans, radio, televisions and the like. However, be sure not to overload your plugs or extention cords because it can pose a danger to the home.
"People tend to overload their switches, especially during the festive season. One switch may service many equipments. Under normal circumstances, when a switch board is overloaded, it would automatically stop. However, if the switchboard is faulty, a fire may start," said Teruki.
5. If a fire occurs, immediately call the Fire and Rescue Department
According to Teruki, if it is only a small fire, then it is possible to put it out yourself using a fire extinguisher.
However, if the fire is large and uncontrollable, the first course of action is to always contact the Fire and Rescue department by calling 999.
Also avoid using water to put out an electrical fire, as it may lead to electrocution.
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