ON average, about 6,000 premises are destroyed by fire every year.
Of these, 2,400 are private houses. According to the Fire and Rescue Department (FRD)’s statistics, between 120 and 150 people perish in fires annually.
This is an alarming number, even for the FRD. Fire safety awareness among home dwellers is lacking, as the statistics show.
Not that the FRD has not done its job. In fact, last year alone, FRD conducted 5,251 fire safety awareness talks and 6,089 fire drills to arm people with basic fire safety knowledge and skills.
Another commendable thing that FRD is doing is to reach out to schools through the Safe Kids At Home: Preventing Fire And Burns, in collaboration with Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry, Education Ministry, Safe Kids Worldwide and Honeywell Hometown Solutions.
The New Straits Times reported on April 16 last year that the six-month pilot programme would reach 6,000 students in nine schools in Kuala Lumpur.
One hopes FRD, notwithstanding its limited resources, will reach the rest of the students in the country.
FRD statistics show that a child dies every two weeks from fire and burn injuries, and, most of the deaths occur at home.
Fire safety awareness is lacking among adults, too. This is despite FRD reaching out to the public through auxiliary, voluntary and community fire brigades. And, through seminars, talks and fire drills, too.
FRD is ready, willing and able to help us, but not when we do not want to help ourselves.
We must bear in mind that our firefighters are able to be at the scene of a fire within 10 minutes of a distress call only 45 per cent of the time.
Home dwellers must endeavour to become first responders, because most major fires are a result of people being unaware and unable to prevent them at the initial stage.
The safety of occupants depends on fire detection equipment, such as smoke detectors or fire alarm.
But, not many houses have such equipment installed.
One wonders how many homes have fire blankets in the kitchen, where most fires start. Affordability may be an issue, but the money spent will ensure savings in life, limb and property.
In the event of fire, occupants should be able to douse the fire before it becomes uncontrollable.
For this to happen, every home should have a portable fire extinguisher, and, every adult must be trained to use it.
All occupants must be trained to evacuate the building through exits that are free from fire and smoke.
Most deaths occur because escape routes are obstructed or blocked.
Escape is possible only if the route is unimpeded. If the grilles and doors are locked, all occupants must have easy access to the keys.
Permanently fixed bars or grilles are death traps, as recent fires over the last two weeks have shown.
Every year, between 30,000 and 60,000 fire incidents are reported in the country. With fire safety awareness, supported by proper equipment, we can aim not to be part of the statistics.