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Friday, August 18, 2006

Keep Your Loved Ones Safe

The fire tragedy in Malacca where 4 children perished is indeed sad and the anguish for the family must be really unbearable and unimaginable.

It is good that the Safety Department and not TNB is doing the investigations although an inquest would provide a more definitive and official finding.

There are three elements that have caused the tragedy and each of the following is important:

 The houses were made of wood and hence would burn more speedily than brick construction

 The grilles for security could not be opened from the inside easily and the children were all too young to know how to do that.

 It is suspected that the fire could have started from a short circuit or a faulty appliance.

In most homes there are various combustible materials that most people do not consider. These are some that will burn and give off noxious fumes that will kill you faster than the actual flames.

Parquet flooring
Plastic casings of TVs, computers and other electrical appliances.

If any electrical appliance is switched on in ready mode, there is an electrical current flowing to maintain that state. We normally leave TVs and computers on.

If these are of inferior quality, it is possible for any electrical appliance to catch fire, as most people do not know the internal circuitry of such everyday items.

The latest news on computers is that Dell is recalling 4.1 million computers as they posed a fire risk.
This is an excellent article on Electrical Fires by John Gardner and the following brief extract describes how electrical fires are caused:

Please read it to protect your loved ones

2.0 ELECTRICAL CAUSE OF FIREAn electrical fire can be defined as a fire where an electric current or electrical fault is found to have been the ignition source. Some examples would be: -

a) Lightning strikes -Where extremely high voltages and currents, for a few thousandths of a second, produce so much heat that surrounding materials catch fire and continue to burn.

b) Overloaded wiring - Where the electric current flowing in the wires exceeds the rating of the cables. The wiring heats up and melts the insulation and can set fire to flammable material nearby. Commonly found in flexible cords, or power board leads.

c) Loose wiring connections - The current flowing through the wiring encounters resistance at the connection and generates heat. This can start a fire in the wall at the back of a power point, in a wiring junction box in the ceiling, above light fittings or inside a switchboard.

d) Electrical "arcing" (or sparking) - Where wiring insulation has been damaged by an external occurrence, and which lets the copper conductors inside a cable just touch one another, or to just make contact with the metal case of an appliance.”

I did a quick check in my house and found that that we are using 9 multiple extension cords all over the house and these are highly not recommended. But if you must use it, try to switch it off at the mains when no one is around.
If the extension has to be switched on as linked to your PC, make sure the surrounding area is free of combustible materials like stacks of papers.

I think that locked grilles have been raised a few times already and families should ensure that there are at least 2 doors or windows that can be opened with a key that in known to family members. Each floor should have 2 exits; one in front and one at the back of the house.

For my house, we have installed 3 windows on the first floor that can be opened; though they are located at the front end and we also have a fire escape door that leads to an outside landing. As a fire safety precaution, we laid ceramic tiles on the staircase instead of parquet.

One other factor that has not been considered is the household rat. These pests will gnaw anything even electrical wiring and can therefore cause short circuits. So you should try to eliminate these pests.

What about your own house?
How safe is your family?
Will everyone be able to escape if there is a fire anywhere in the house?

I hope you do not have to find out the hard way.

Photo: http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/residents/images/powerboard.jpg

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