Expand fire safety checks nationwide, says Lee Lam Thye

KUALA LUMPUR: The move by the Fire and Rescue Department to conduct fire safety checks on old public housing under the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) should be expanded to other states as well, says Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye (pic).

While praising the move by the authorities, the Alliance for a Safe Community chairman said such checks should also be conducted in other states where there are many low-cost public housing flats.

"The Fire and Rescue Department should make it a policy to do frequent checks, maybe every five years.Fire drills are also important so that the residents are prepared and not panicky in case of a fire or an emergency," he said when contacted on Saturday (Feb 24).

He was commenting on the forming of a task force to conduct fire safety checks on public housing that is more than 30 years old in areas under DBKL following a recent fire at the Sri Sabah flats.

"Forming the task force is a right move as most of the low-cost flats in Kuala Lumpur were built in the 1980s. It is about time for such flats to be inspected to determine the fire safety level for the residents.

"However, I feel that such a move should have been done earlier instead of after the fire at the Sri Sabah flats," he said.

Top priority should be given to the safety of all flats' residents, Lee said.

"Most of them are low-income earners thus the authorities have the responsibility to ensure that all facilities, especially fire safety mechanisms are frequently checked and working properly in the event of an emergency," he lamented.

Maintenance of low-cost flats is also very important, he added.

"Local authorities should have a budget to ensure all facilities, especially elevators at such premises are properly maintained.

"Elevators breaking down are common at such low-cost high rises.

"The authorities should also ensure that fire hydrants at these flats are working. Safety culture must begin with the authorities and be embraced by the people," he said.

Lee also called on the authorities to supply each flats with a 30kg fire extinguisher as it could assist in dousing small fires.

"Small fires could spread and become bigger if not doused," he said.

It was reported that a task force has been formed to check on fire safety at public housing buildings under DBKL.

Kuala Lumpur Fire and Rescue Department director Muhammad Salleh Abdul said the task force will focus on 122 blocks of buildings at 24 public housing areas, which are more than 30 years old, in an operation codenamed "Ops Sri PA".

"The task force consists of 70 department personnel and is assisted by DBKL personnel.

"We will conduct the inspections from Feb 22 till the end of the month," he told reporters after launching the task force at the Sri Sabah flats.

The move to form the task force comes after the fire at the Sri Sabah flats on Feb 11, he said.

"We want to ensure that public housing meets the minimum requirements for fire safety.

"At the same time, we want to ascertain that the fire safety system at the buildings are working. We will also see whether there are any improvements that can be made based on existing laws," he said.

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