Very often we have been just another bystander watching a fire burning and engulfing a house or commercial property or a bush fire along the roads? Â We are just crowding the place and busy taking our smartphone to record the fire, share and send it to social media networking?
I am pretty sure that your immediate instinct would be to dial the emergency number to call the Fire Department or BOMBA.
Do you have a smartphone in your hand or do you have to rush back to you home or the nearest public telephone booth to make a phone call?
Do you know who and what number to call? Â What information to give to the receiver?
In Malaysia, if you conduct a public survey on who and what number you are going to call for an emergency, the likely answers you get is 999. Â Some people may confuse it with 911 which is usually used in the United States of America. Â When you dial 999 in Malaysia, it is for the Police and Ambulance Services. Â So if you are in a Fire emergency, the number to dial is 994. Â If you are calling from your mobile phone, the emergency number is 112.
Safety and fire prevention is the responsibility of the house-owner and everyone. How to save lives and prevent financial losses due to fire disaster?
1) Hazard area identification
Identify the potential fire hazard inside and outside of the house or building. Â Places such as the kitchen, chimneys, the electrical appliances, water heaters, ovens, coffee and tea brewing machines, main power switchboards and the garden with bushes or dried leaves during hot weather and dry season.
2) Identify the combustible and hazardous materials
What are the combustible items kept in the house and the construction materials of your building and floor plans. Items like cooking gas piping and valves or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders, kerosene, paraffin oils and wax candles, matches, charcoals, Â alcohols, turpentine, the wooden flooring, wooden walls and wooden pillars, and wooden truss and ceiling, clothes, papers and plastic items.
Material hazards can be classified into classes :
|Class A:Â||SOLIDS substances such as paper, wood, plastic, fabrics and clothes etc|
|Class B:Â||FLAMMABLE LIQUIDS such as kerosene, paraffin, petrol, oil etc|
|Class C:Â Â||FLAMMABLE GASES such as propane, butane, methane etc|
|Class D:||METALS such as iron, stainless steel, aluminium, magnesium, titanium etc|
|Class E:||Fires involving ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES AND APPARATUS|
|Class F:||Cooking OIL such as palm oil, coconut oil, groundnut oils & FAT etc|
3) Electrical wiring and circuits, electrical appliances such as electrical oven, heating appliances such as coffee maker, bread toasters, microwave oven, iron and ironing board and water heater and air-conditioner’s compressor installation. Do not overload electric circuits. Â In present days, most people will have too many extension wires and sockets for the gadgets at one point of power supply.
4) Barbeque pits and its fuels, charcoalsÂ and equipment used and cigarette butts.
1) Install FireÂ Extinguishers, FireÂ Alarms, Smoke detectors, Water Sprinklers Systems and Other Fire Fighting equipment
After identifying the space and location of high risks spots, place or install the appropriate type of Fire Extinguishers, Fire Alarm and Smoke Detector at the strategic location that is easily accessible and noticeable by everyone.
Make sure, the fire-fighting equipment and system are properly and regularly maintained. Â Keep a log book for the records of maintenance.
To put out a burning fire, the application of appropriate fire fighting extinguishers or apparatus and fire fighting techniques are very crucial to put out the fire in the shortest time and to prevent financial losses and to prevent bodily injury and loss of lives.
For typical Malaysian residential homes, it is advisable to have a multipurpose dry powder fire extinguisher which is suitable for fighting materials in class A, B & C. Â For fire ignited by electrical appliances, it is advisable to use a CO2 fire extinguisher.
Fire-extinguishers are color coded to help user identify easily its functionality and usage
WaterÂ -Â Red
FoamÂ -Â Cream
Dry PowderÂ -Â Blue
Carbon DioxideÂ (CO2)Â – Black
HalonÂ -Â GreenÂ (is ‘illegal’ except for use by such as the Police, Military and Aircraft).
However, the new guideline to conform with Malaysian standard the entire body of the extinguisher be colored red and leaving a space not more than 5% for identification of the type of extinguisher with the old color coding. Â Usually, the contractor engaged in the maintenance of the fire extinguishers will do the necessary inspection and refilling the chemical compounds and send it to BOMBA for certification of compliance before sending back to the house ownerÂ
For High rise buildings like condominiums and office towers, there are other stringent fire safety requirements. Â There are standard sprinklers, smoke detectors and fire alarm systems that need to be installed over a fixed space area. Â There are also requirements for the wet-risers, water pumps and generator sets to be installed. Â The other fire fighting equipment like hose reels, nozzles & valves control and pipings be placed at each floor of the building.
Local authority in town planning also required the compliance to have internal and external hydrants and these places are to be free from all kinds of obstruction at all time with yellow box lines being drawn around it.
2) Identify escape routes, doors, windows and exits
Knowing which direction to go and where is the nearest exit to get out of the building is crucial to escape from a building that is engulf with fire. Â Ensure that there are clear exit arrow/direction markers to give direction leading to the exits and do not place or store things that can block the path on the corridors or stairways. Clear the passage and make sure there are no hindrances to the safety escape route.
3) Lookout for your neighborhood’s common or public external fire water hydrants and fire hose reel with accessories and nozzles intact and identify that it is in working condition and not vandalized. Â Ensure that the place is clear from car parking and not blocked within 3 meters.
4) Orderly evacuation for the special people with special needs.
Arrange for special emergency response team for the elderly, sicked, handicapped, young children and infants to be evacuated first.
5) Prepare some first aids kits and masks
Each household and the team members who are helping in the fire-fighting and evacuation and the rescued victims may require a helping hand and supports.
6) Join a local neighborhood voluntary fire-fighting team
You can and organize or participate in the fire drill and evacuation activities for the local residents. Identify leaders to coordinate and contact the Fire Brigade Department and Police to help establish control and command center.
7) Regular inspection of the building and premises and the surrounding to detect any deterioration of the safety of the building and readiness of the fire-fighting equipment and machinery.
Prepare log book to records the date of inspection and maintenance. Clear the obstructions on the stairways and corridors and update the exit markers and signage to be visible to all users.
8) Even in private cars, the car owners can help prevent fire.
Many times, the driver and passengers of cars were trapped and burnt to death as there was no one to help put the fire out in time before the fire and rescue department arrive to extricate the victims.
Car owners can keep a small sized fire extinguisher usually the ABC dry powder type and/or the CO2 type in their car to put out fire caused by overheating engine or due to collisions.
Whatever small size the fire extinguisher is that is in your car can also quickly be retrieved to help put out the little fire that just started at the kitchen or the barbeque pit or at the small fire on the bushes along the road.
9) Never assume alarms are false. Do not use lifts. Use staircase.
Checklist for Fire Drill and Evacuation
1) List the names of all the inhabitants in your house or the building.
This exercise will help to ensure that no one is left in the burning building and to ensure everyone is safe.
2) Appoint a leader in each unit of the household to take note and check headcounts at the evacuation center.
Pay attention to those seniors and infants, handicapped persons and those sicked persons that need special assistance in mobility. Â Appoint two volunteers to each one of these special persons to help in the evacuation.
3) Designate an appropriate nearby and spacious area as evacuation center.
This is to facilitate and control Â the movements of the evacuees to be relocated for the evacuation and identification purpose.
4) Give the missing persons name list and from which unit of the building Â to the Fire department and BOMBA rescue team control center for their action and monitoring.
5) Established own neighborhood emergency first aid care givers team
To help provide immediate response treatment for minor injury and trauma of fire victims and another coordinating team that will contact the paramedic, hospital and fire department or BOMBA.
6) Conduct joint fire drill regularly with all residents and the Fire department or BOMBA
This is to make the residents more prepared to face the eventual fire disaster and to have better control over the unfortunate incidents, minimize trauma and chaos while ensuring everyone’s safety first.
7) While escaping from a burning building, if you can manage, please grab a towel or cloth and wet it with water and cover your nose and mouth area and bend low to avoid inhaling toxic gases and move out as quickly as possible.
Prevent Loss of Lives and Financial Losses
1) First and foremost, save lives – vacate the house and evacuate the handicapped and persons like senior citizens and infants with special needs to the safe and nearest evacuation center.
The best policy for prevention of financial losses due to fire disaster is to get a Fire insurance policy to cover your house owner and householder risks so that your mind is at peace and only focus on escaping from the burning house alive and with minimum bodily injury.
2) Walk quickly out of the building to safety , do not run. Grab your important identification documents along if you can. Â Identity cards, Birth Certificates, Passports and Medical report cards are helpful as some people have allergies and medical conditions.Â Leave everything behind.
3) Get immediate health care and medical treatment for any bodily injuries.
4) After alerting the emergency number 999 Â or 112 (mobile phone) and 994 for BOMBA and local voluntary Fire Fighters response team, please contact your insurance agent to help you with your insurance claims.
5) If you manage to snap some pictures, or record the fire incident and have newspaper reports on the incident, please help to submit it to support your insurance claim.
6) How to insure your house and property? Â What can you insure and when to get started? Â How to make a claim? What documents are required? We can help you. Please contact us now.