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By Nancy Nais
In Part 1 of this ‘Fire Safety: Ensuring that no life is lost needlessly’ series, DayakDaily shared a case where a fire incident at a room-for-rent took the life of a young woman.
Fire burns everything — it does not matter whether the victims are rich or poor, their properties cheap or expensive, big or small, and that is a burning fact.
But most people today continue to have low awareness, practice ignorance or worse, take no action with regards to fire safety.
Many think that firefighters only work during emergencies and operations or fire safety is simply knowing what to do if a fire breaks out.
While that may be part of it, there is more to fire safety which everyone needs to know to be safe.
Fire and Safety Division
The Fire and Rescue Department Malaysia (JBPM) has a division called Fire and Safety (BKK), which specifically looks after four important elements, namely Engineering, Enforcement, Education and Emergency Management.
These are the set of practices which the department refers to planning and infrastructure design aimed at reducing the risk of fire or impeding the spread of a fire when one does break out.
It also encompasses the use of building materials, preventative actions, safe work practices, fire safety training, awareness programs and many more.
Under the Fire Service Act 1988 (Act 341), it empowers JBPM to regulate and enforced the Uniform Building By-Laws 1984; and Sarawak Building Ordinance 1994 (SBO by law) for the state of Sarawak.
The Fire Services Act 1988 (Act 341) was also amended in 2018 and came into force January 1, 2020.
JPBM Sarawak assistant director of fire safety division Mohamad Fauzi Mohamat Kifli said every designated premise must comply with the life safety, fire prevention, fire protection and fire-fighting requirements.
There are nine designated premises namely libraries; hospitals and nursing homes; hotels; hostels and dormitories; offices; shops; factories; places of assembly and storage or general area.
“Life and property safety, specifically in relation to fire hazards, begin with the preparation of a building plan. It has to be in accordance with building laws enacted in accordance with the principles of fire science, human nature in fire and engineering requirements whereby systems installed does not fail when it is needed.
The Occupation Permit (OP) is a document issued by local council with a supporting letter from JBPM certifying a building’s compliance with permits given or granted under the Fourth Schedule of the Sarawak Buildings Ordinance 1994.
“It indicates that the premise is in a condition suitable for occupancy. It is also evidence that the building complies substantially with the plans and specifications that have been submitted to, supported by us and approved by the local authority.
“Generally, upon receiving the plans from the qualified person or principal submitting person (PSP), our team from this section will check the documents thoroughly and will be presented in the technical committee meeting for approval,” Fauzi told DayakDaily in an interview.
Once the building has been awarded the OP, the approved rules must not change as and when the occupants wishes, as this may cause weaknesses in the building.
“If changes were made without approval involved the element of structure such as a compartment wall, separating wall, protected staircases, exit route and the travel distance, it is no longer appropriate nor safe.
“Studies and past cases have shown that the way fire and smoke spreads are also important as these will facilitate the control of the fire and smoke from spreading to other parts of the building,” he explained.
Hence, studies were made on ‘means of escape during fire’, compartment wall, exit door, compartment floor, staircase and so on.
He asserted that fires should be extinguished immediately so that it does not grow bigger or become catastrophic.
This is where fire fighting equipment or fire safety installation such as fire hydrants, fire alarm system, portable fire extinguishers, automatic sprinklers system, smoke extractor and smoke spills systems, dry and wet riser system, fire lifts, automatic fire detectors system, smoke control, hose reel, hydrant system and so on comes in.
While the basic fire fighting equipment such as fire extinguishers can be used for smaller scale areas, larger system are required for the opposite.
Automatic sprinklers system are widely recognized as an effective method for fighting the spread of fires in their early stages.
“It sort of operates on a frangible glass bulb which contains a heat responsive liquid. When fire occurs, the temperature rises causing the liquid in the bulb to expand until the temperature reaches the rated temperature of the sprinkler before the bulb shatters.
“Once that happen, water is discharged towards the deflector which is designed to distribute the water in a pattern that is most effective in controlling the fire,” Fauzi explained as he showed how sprinkler system works.
As for fire alarm system, whether it is in a home, office or any designated premises, this is also a warning device which can actually keep people safe.
Fauzi pointed that these sensor detects the likelihood of fire, or when someone triggers a manual alarm such as a button or break-glass lever.
It will then provide warning to alert everyone in the premise that a fire has started and they must evacuate.
What about smoke extractor system? These are usually installed in buildings such as shopping centres, car parks, large constructions with vast open spaces, industrial premises with a high risk of fire and industrial kitchens.
Since most frequent cause of death in a fire is smoke inhalation, Fauzi then justified that smoke extractors are installed to remove toxic fumes from the building as quickly as possible.
The system will suck fumes away from the building, allowing clear escape and smoke-free routes not only for people inside to evacuate but also for firefighters to be able to intervene quickly and precisely.
Another large system is the smoke spill fans, designed to control the movement of smoke during a fire.
These fans must be capable of withstanding high temperatures for short periods of time.
Meanwhile, Fauzi reminded that human beings are made up of different categories, according to their ability, age, gender and ability to act safely without being assisted by anyone in the event of a fire in a building.
“An example, a hospital building. This is one place where there are hundreds of patients who are unable to walk, talk, hear or still in a state of unconscious after surgery. So these people are unable to mobilise themselves to a safer place, see or or hear the warning bells. Therefore, these are one of the factors that must be taken into account when designing or preparing building plans,” he pointed out. — DayakDaily