With the Philippines marking Fire Prevention Month in March, experts offered a number of fire safety tips for condominium and apartment dwellers.
The Bureau of Fire Prevention (BFP) explained that March is Fire Prevention Month not only because it is typically one of the first hot months of the year in the Philippines, but more because it usually has one of the highest numbers of fires of any month.
BFP statistics showed that in 2015, there were a total of 17,138 fire incidents nationwide, of which 16.7 percent (about 2,862, or about nine per day) occurred in March.
According to property developer ProFriends, any residential building must pass a fire safety inspection and be issued a Fire Safety Inspection Certificate by the city/municipal fire marshal before it can be occupied. The BFP further clarified that for condominium buildings or apartment buildings in which the apartments do not have exterior entrances, automatic sprinkler systems, firewalls, fire extinguishers in common areas, and sufficient fire exits are all required before a certificate can be issued.
“Fire safety begins with choosing a unit,” a representative of developer Robinson’s Land said. For maximum fire safety, the developer recommended selecting a unit on a lower floor – many fire departments do not have ladders that can reach higher than the tenth floor – and choosing one facing a main road or other access that fire trucks would use. Making sure the building itself is located in an area that is easily accessible by fire equipment is also important, he added.
ProFriends added that even though it was the responsibility of the developer to make sure every unit was properly inspected, some home owners might wish to have their own inspection by a professional, just to make sure nothing was missed.
Learning the building’s fire exits and escape routes is an absolute must, the BFP said, and these should be clearly posted in common areas. “Practice getting out of your condo and out of the building before a fire happens,” the BFP said. “It’s best to practice several times, at different times of the day and night, so that you’re familiar with what to do even if there is darkness or smoke.”
The BFP also said that the homeowner should check to make sure windows are not painted or rusted shut, and determine whether the air conditioning unit can be removed, to provide another escape route in an emergency.
The BFP also recommended keeping a fire extinguisher in the unit, preferably in or near the kitchen, which is a common place for fires to start. A type ABC fire extinguisher – which is appropriate for light materials, flammable liquids, and electrical fires – is the best choice, the BFP said.
Smoke detectors are also a smart addition, the fire bureau said. The BFP recommended installing one in each bedroom, and one in the kitchen. “Make sure to test the detector at least once a month, and change batteries at least twice a year,” the BFP said.
In case of fire
When a fire breaks out, the BFP said that the first priority is to escape as quickly as possible, following the
“You usually only have about two minutes until a room is completely engulfed in flames, so do not delay even for a moment,” the BFP warned. Once clear of the building, the resident should call 911. “Don’t assume someone else has,” the BFP added. “It’s okay if we get many calls from the same place, it’s not okay if everyone thinks everyone else has called, and no one does.”
Since smoke inhalation is the major cause of injuries or death in a fire, stay as low as possible, even crawling if necessary, to escape the building. If possible, the BFP added, cover your mouth and nose with a wet cloth.
“If you have to pass through any doors, always remember to feel the door and handle first: If it’s hot, don’t open it,” the BFP added, as that would indicate there is fire on the other side of the door.
The fire prevention experts also cautioned against using the elevators, as it is possible to become trapped if the electricity fails.
If all the exits are blocked by fire, the resident should return to his or her unit, shut the door, and cover the door gaps with damp towels or blankets to prevent smoke from getting in. “Make sure you’re safe for the moment, then call 911 and tell the emergency personnel exactly where you are,” the BFP explained. If safe to do so, go to the window to signal for help by shouting and waving a white or brightly-colored cloth to attract attention.