The importance of a having a fire extinguisher at home

by Datu Khirudin Drahman

In this comprehensive exploration of fire safety at the community level, our focus is on raising awareness about the indispensable need for portable fire extinguishers in every household.

The importance of this essential safety tool cannot be overstated particularly in the critical first minutes of a fire outbreak.

It is my personal hope of mine to see every home is equipped with at least one operational portable fire extinguisher, strategically placed and readily accessible.

The significance of this preparation becomes even more evident when considering the rapid spread of fire and the lethal consequences of smoke within seconds.

Therefore, understanding, owning, and effectively using a portable fire extinguisher is paramount for safeguarding lives and property.

Unfortunately, recent studies reveal a pervasive lack of concern about fire safety in Malaysian homes. According to the Basic Amenities Survey Report 2022 by the Statistics Department which was published in September last year, 90 percent of households in the country do not possess a fire extinguisher.

This critical safety device often regarded as the first line of defence, is present in only 8.9 percent of homes nationwide.

The situation is particularly concerning in Sarawak where a mere 5.3 percent of homes own at least one portable fire extinguisher.

Recognising this alarming trend, the State Fire and Rescue Department (BOMBA Sarawak) has been actively advocating for a comprehensive approach over the last five years.

The goal is to ensure that every Sarawakian home is equipped with this essential safety tool, emphasising the need for preparedness and proactive fire safety measures within communities.

Unfortunately, many communities only recognise the importance of having a functional portable fire extinguisher when faced with an emergency.

These devices play a fundamental role as first-aid firefighting equipment during the initial stages of a fire incident which can prevent it from escalating into a full-scale disaster.

Proper usage of portable fire extinguishers can significantly control and extinguish a fire before fire authorities are even summoned.

Communities must always practice and acknowledge P.A.S.S.acronym everytime using Portable Fire Extinguisher that is PULL the pin, AIM at the fire source, SQUEEZE the lever and SWEEP the nozzle discharging the extinguishing chemical to base of fire to suffocate n cool the fire.

However, it is crucial to understand that these devices are not designed for use against large-scale fires.

The selection of the appropriate extinguisher depends on the type and size of the fire.

I must also emphasise the importance of placing them in close proximity to potential fire hazards.

For these devices to be user-friendly, they should have a minimum gross weight with a higher fire rating, ensuring that they can be handled and operated by a single person.

Regular maintenance and annual servicing are imperative to guarantee their effectiveness. All portable fire extinguishers must adhere to codes and standards, specifically Malaysian Standards (M.S 1539 Part 1, 3, and 4), and follow the SIRIM quality certification scheme.

Understanding the classes of fires and their specific extinguishing agents is vital.

Water is suitable for Class A fires involving solid organic materials, while dry chemical powder (ABC) is effective against Class A, B, and C fires.

The colour coding on the extinguisher cylinder o4 body serves as a visual guide: red for water, cream for foam, blue for dry chemical powder, black for carbon dioxide, and golden yellow for HALON (permitted for military, aviation, or special applications only).

In commercial installations, the strategic placement of portable fire extinguishers is crucial for easy access during emergencies.

Consideration should be given to fire classes, fire hazard locations, extinguisher distribution, and performance. At the same, the size and quantity of fire extinguishers are also equally critical factors.

BOMBA Sarawak has taken significant strides to create a resilient community through serious engagement initiatives. For instance, our Fire Point programme particularly in longhouse communities, small villages, and settlements has successfully instilled confidence and encourages positive action within these communities.

Another successful programme is the 1RAPI Program (1 Rumah 1 Alat Pemadam Api) which targets private homeowners especially housewives by encouraging them to own portable fire extinguishers.

Moreover, BOMBA Sarawak has also collaborated with Government-Linked Companies (GLCs) and local representatives for their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes. This collaboration in the form of fire extinguishers sponsorship have proven impactful as it managed to foster a sense of responsibility in safeguarding homes, neighbours, and the environment among community members.

Just remember: It is crucial to remember that fire spreads in minutes, but smoke spreads in seconds. Fire is not an illusion; it is real and demands our attention.

Education on fire safety, knowing how to tackle and control fires, being smart, and staying safe are paramount.

By instilling a culture of preparedness and proactive fire safety measures, we can collectively build safer communities and protect lives and property. 

Datu Khirudin Drahman is Director of Bomba Sarawak. The views expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect that of The Weekly-Echo.