‘More needed to curb fires’

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A fire safety seminar was held in Phnom Penh on Monday. Hean Rangsey

Sek Phumy, the Deputy Commissioner of the National Police said on Monday that more must be done to prevent fires as many buildings are being constructed with the proper fire prevention standards disregarded.

His remarks were made at a seminar in the capital organised by the Association of Fire Prevention Enterprises (AFPE) in conjunction with the National Quality Inspection Centre for Fire Safety Systems (NICS) on the introduction of the National Standard Book on Fire Safety Systems – Building Design Code.

The new code, which came into force on August 12, has been developed by the General Commissariat of the National Police and the NICS.

It provides comprehensive technical specifications for fire prevention and aims to protect occupants and properties by imposing standards to reduce the risk of fire in buildings.

Phumy said that specialist units are currently encountering many problems, while public awareness of the issues remained limited.

“We do not yet have laws on technical standards regarding the installation of fire extinguishing systems, which puts us at high risk. Many buildings have no systems recognised by firefighters to put out fires.

“Also, poor infrastructure and narrow roads pose many obstacles, preventing timely intervention by fire engines,” Phumy said.

He said there had been 315 fires in the first six months of this year, 78 more than in the same period last year, with 10 people losing their lives and 46 injured.

Fires have broken out in 418 homes, seven warehouses, a factory, an LPG refuelling station, a petrol station and 129 shops and market stalls, Phumy said.

Some 37 per cent of fires, he said, were caused by electrical faults and 29 per cent through negligence. Thirteen incidents escalated into large-scale disasters due to neglect or failure to comply with fire prevention requirements.

Chreng Davannara, the former deputy director of the National Police’s Department of Fire Prevention, Extinguishing and Rescue, was invited to share his personal experiences at the seminar.

He said there had been a significant improvement in Cambodia’s infrastructure.

“High-rise and underground buildings, boreys [gated communities], commercial hubs, factories and petrol stations have sprung up everywhere.

“But meanwhile, we’ve seen catastrophic tragedies, with fire destroying our hard-earned achievements over the years and in some cases taking people’s lives. From year to year, the number of fires has been rising steadily,” Davannara said.

AFPE president Oknha Wang Kitman said it was important that citizens and businesspeople had proper safety equipment and knew how to use it.

“They must have fire extinguishers ready to help save lives and property. Owners of factories and other enterprises must pay attention to technical standards and know how to properly store fire extinguishers.

“Particularly, they have to teach their staff on how to use the extinguishers and fire prevention methods,” he said.