10 tips to prevent household fires


Many may be lulled into thinking that a fire will never happen in their home.

However, fires often happen in our houses due to various reasons including carelessness, electrical overloading, unattended cooking and faulty electrical appliances, paving the way for a fire to grow.

There are some things within our capacity to prevent a fire from occurring and engulfing our home.

This week, StarMetro Online speaks to Kuala Lumpur Fire and Rescue Department director Khirudin Drahman and Fire Prevention Council Malaysia (FIPCOM) national chairman Datuk Dr Soh Chai Hock about ways to prevent household fires.

1. For about RM80 (S$26), you can buy a smoke detector which can save the lives of your family members and your home.

Khirudin explains that you can have it installed in hallways but not the kitchen as the cooking process can create smoke.

You can consider installing more smoke detectors if you live in a bigger home.

Don't forget to test them once a month and to keep spare batteries for them .

2. Many homeowners do not make it a habit to switch off and pull out the plugs of their home appliances after use.

This can be a dangerous practice if you plan to be away. Some leave their air-conditioning on despite not being at home while there are those who forget to switch off their hair dryers or hair straightening appliances upon leaving a room.

3. Are you using a bulb with the right wattage for your lights?

Are all your appliance cords and extension cords in good order?

Worn or damaged cords can start a fire, said Soh.

Remember to check your gas pipes and cylinders too.

4. A fire extinguisher and fire blanket are some basic pieces of equipment you can keep in your house to protect your family.

There may not be a law in place yet that makes it mandatory for households to keep these items but Khirudin highly encourages homeowners to do so.

Many fires start out small and fire extinguishers can prevent them from getting out of hand.

A fire blanket can be used to put out fire that catches your clothing fire or to extinguish small fires at home.

5. A clean and clutter-free home is not purely for aesthetic and hygiene reasons but helps increase your family's safety.

Old newspapers, magazines and cardboard boxes are some examples of fuel for a fire.

Additionally, clearing your home of such items leaves less obstructions for your family during an emergency exit, especially if you live in a unit with only one way in and out.

Khirudin emphasised that unlike money, which can be earned again, the same cannot be said for your life.

6. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Soh highly encourages families to discuss a plan together to escape fires.

Plan two ways out of every room. Ensure that your family members know what they need to do to keep themselves safe, such as learning to stop, drop and roll if their clothing has caught fire.

Know your escape routes and remember where safety items are stored in your house, condominium or apartment.

If you live in a high-rise building, learn the fire escape routes and assembly point.

7. Many of us may be guilty of using extension cords as permanent wiring but this is a bad habit.

Remember not to coil cords to prevent them from overheating and don't hang cords over nails or run them through doors or under rugs.

Use extension cords that are in good order and that have been approved by Sirim.

Avoid overloading them.

8. While this may sound like a lot of work, Soh advises the public to keep a record of their possessions in the event they are destroyed in a fire or are stolen.

Note important details including their price and date of purchase.

This can ease the processing of your insurance claim. Keep this information, whether in digital or in a physical format, in a secure place and remember to update it.

9. "Fire spreads in minutes and smoke kills in seconds," said Soh.

Smoke is hazardous as it is full of toxic gases.

As it is lighter than air, it rises.

It is important to stay low to avoid breathing in smoke.

10. If you are planning to buy or rent a home, especially in attached residencies such as condominiums and apartments, look out for and ask about safety features including clearly marked exits, fire alarm systems and clean and well-maintained buildings.

Make sure that the safety features in your home work. Learn the escape routes and practise using them.