Call for more fire safety awareness after recent tragedies

PETALING JAYA: The rise in fire tragedies that claimed the lives of the elderly recently has raised questions on what might have gone wrong with the fire safety efforts in the country.

Fire safety awareness, availability of fire protection tools and access to escape for vulnerable groups have been among the suggestions made by the public safety organisations to overcome the situation.

The Alliance for Safe Community’s (Ikatan) chairman, Tan

Sri Lee Lam Thye, said the recent tragedies in Kota Kinabalu and Teluk Intan that took the lives of two senior citizens on Monday should be a wake-up call to enhance fire safety awareness.

Lee added that it was important to educate people about fire safety.

“They (the elderly people) are physically weaker and the young should always lend their hands, especially in life and death situations.”

“The public should at least have basic fire escape skills such as wrapping one’s body with a wet blanket or clothes,” Lee said.

Aside from suggesting that fire extinguishers should be made available even in residential areas, Lee said that fire protection campaigns by the authority such as the bomba could be intensified.

“Also, non-governmental organisations should work hand in hand with authorities to increase fire safety and protection campaigns across the country, especially in squatters and low-cost housing areas,” he added.

Echoing the same concern, Malaysian Fire Protection Association’s (MFPA) president Michelle Hah said education and awareness on first aid fire safety was key to solving part of the problem.

“We do collaborate with the authorities, especially with the bomba, by going around residential areas to educate the public,” she said.

MFPA has been working for over 30 years on creating action plans for public fire safety and protection through dialogues, seminars and conferences with professional bodies.

“So far, our efforts encompass the general public and are not specifically on a certain age group.”

Not denying the fact that education and awareness should come first, she also said buildings and residential areas should be equipped with fire protection tools such as fire extinguishers and fire blankets.

“The fire protection tools and safety education should come together; having the tools but not knowing how to operate them will not help, and vice versa.”

“MFPA has been advocating for buildings to have fire blankets aside from fire extinguishers because it is an equally important protection tool.”

“We also had talks with authorities about enhancing fire safety in buildings and residential areas such as having panic buttons but the plan has yet to be realised,” Hah said.

“Having the building layout to be more fire escape-friendly for vulnerable groups like the elderly, children and people with disabilities should be the utmost priority as well.”

Hah said law enforcement over a building’s fire safety and protection requirements could be further enhanced.

“Most residential houses do not have the basic fire equipment such as fire extinguishers (first aid in fire safety) or smoke detectors as smoke also kills.

“In 2012, Uniform Building Bylaws (UBBL), there is a requirement to have fire extinguishers in certain states in Malaysia like Selangor, Terengganu and Penang,” she added.

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