BY Roznah Abdul Jabbar
Fire incidents in public buildings, especially hospitals and schools, are unthinkable as they are expected to be safe and secure for occupancy, said national chairman of Fire Prevention Council Malaysia (FIPCOM), Datuk Dr Soh Chai Hock.
According to Soh, some buildings are relying on temporary certificates and refuse to obtain the proper Certificate of Fitness for Occupation (CF) and fire certificate (FC).
“CF is obtained when the building is completed, while FC is obtained when a building is deemed safe in fire prevention and is fully equipped in case of fire,” he told Property360.
Soh said the problem with most buildings is that fire safety measures are not adhered to and the firefighting equipment is not maintained well.
“There are buildings which have obtained only the temporary CF (TCF) issued by the local councils, and some of them rely on this TCF for years without making an effort to get a proper CF.”
He said the process of issuing the FC and CF is trickier than it seems as it involves several criteria such as trade, occupancies, size and storage relating to the building.
If a building was purpose-built as a hospital, the process should be easier. But some hospital buildings are converted from shop houses, shop offices or office buildings, which have totally different requirements when it comes to fire safety.
Soh noted fire safety requirements differ for various building types.
For public buildings such as hospitals where occupancy is higher, there are more fire safety requirements to obtain the certificates.
Soh said it is unfortunate that owners tend to occupy the building before obtaining the CF and are comfortable with just the TCF.
“Some owners seem to have attitude problems and choose to ignore their responsibilities. The solution is to create a disaster resistant community.”
Fire statistics show more than 99 per cent of fires are man-made due to carelessness, bad attitude and right down abuse and only about 1 per cent is due to acts of nature, but we blame nature most of the time, Soh added.
We reported last week that the tragic fire incident at the Sultanah Aminah Hospital (HSA) in Johor which claimed six lives and injured 11 had led Malaysians to question the safety of buildings in the country, especially those where their safety can ensure the lives of the innocents.
According to Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM), statistically one in five buildings inspected by its subsidiary Architect Centre Sdn Bhd is deemed to be unsafe.
Most are not properly managed and maintained or are newly completed buildings with unresolved unsafe conditions.
These unsafe buildings have serious defects including unauthorised modifications to the electrical system, unattended fire protection and detection system, obstructed fire staircases, inoperable fire doors, water leaks into critical plant rooms, bio-hazards from mould, and sewerage leaks from dilapidated sanitary pipes.
PAM said many of these unresolved conditions went unnoticed until much later, or were discovered during an independent inspection.
It said it is unfortunate that our current laws are inadequate to ensure the overall safety of a building.
One peculiar law is Section 85A of the Street Drainage and Buildings (Amendment) Act 1994 (Act A903) that requires mandatory periodic inspection by a structural engineer for buildings of five storeys and above, and exceeding 10 years old.
PAM said surely the safety of buildings is not merely limited to a structural inspection conducted once every 10 years.
It said buildings need their due checks, maintenance, repairs and replacements.
It warned owners and occupants of private, commercial and public buildings to check the safety of their property as their condition may be a ticking time bomb.