State fire chief on fire protection of high-rise buildings

Khirudin (third left) presenting the Fire Certificate (FC) to Tune Waterfront Hotel’s general manager Mateen Ahmed Affandi last Friday (March 29, 2019).

By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, April 2: Firefighting is straightforward in conventional premises but not in high-rise buildings.

This is because the Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) will not be able to fight fire above the 16th floor of any building in Malaysia simply because currently there is no ladder or escalator high enough to get firefighters to douse the flames.


As such, for any building above that level, Bomba would insist that all the stakeholders, especially the owners and operators of such properties, must strictly abide by and observe the 4Es, namely engineering, education, enforcement and emergency response management.

“The best approach to fight fire in high-rise buildings should be done internally. In other words, it will be more effective to douse it from inside. On top of that, they should have fire detection systems such as smoke and heat detectors and sprinkler systems to detect, control and extinguish fires.

“As such, Bomba will insist that all high-rise buildings in Sarawak will be checked thoroughly for safety purposes. Only then we can issue them with Fire Certificates (FC),” state Bomba chief Khirudin Drahman told DayakDaily today.

FC is required for all buildings that fall under the ‘designated premises’ category. Every building erected must have a Certificate of Fitness before use. Fire abatement notices (MBK) will be issued by Bomba if there are fire safety violations.

To ensure safety at all times, Khirudin emphasised that high-rise property owners must also observe the 3Ps, which stands for precaution, prevention and protection. This involved five interested parties: policymakers, designers, builders, inspectors and, most importantly, the occupiers themselves.

“The five stakeholders must work closely and observe stringent measures to avoid fire. For instance, any carpet and curtain that are of combustible materials should be avoided at all cost,” he warned.

Khirudin asserted that owners of high-rise building should have fire sensors on all the floors, in-house firefighters on duty round-the-clock and, most importantly, emergency exits such as Bomba lifts, which must be in tip-top condition.

“In high-rise buildings, there must be in-house Emergency Response Team (ERT) as first responders. Additionally, there must be passive and active fire prevention requirements that must be observed by the occupiers, such as good housekeeping and maintenance culture. And finally, self-auditing on firefighting must also be strictly observed, too,” he stressed.

Besides Bomba lifts, Bomba also insists that staircases in high-rise buildings must not be blocked or used as storage rooms. And in case of fire, besides the lifts, staircases will be useful escape exits for occupiers,” he said.

Meanwhile, Khirudin said there are only about 20 buildings in Sarawak that are over 20 storeys high.

“Unlike KL, where some of the tallest buildings in the country are located, such as the under-construction Merdeka Tower, which will be 118 storeys high with a total height of 644 metres, the Exchange 108 with the height of 492 metres and the 88-storey Petronas Twin Tower with a height of 452 metres.

“We, in Sarawak, do not have many high-rise buildings because unlike KL, where land is scarce and expensive, the developers will go up instead of sideways,” he explained. — DayakDaily