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Living safe in high-rise apartments

Released at: 16:33, 05/04/2018

Living safe in high-rise apartments

Illustrative image (Source: tinmoi.vn)

Mr. Chen Lian Pang, CEO of CapitaLand Vietnam, tells VET about the recent fire incident at PARCSpring and how people who live in high-rise apartments are actually safer than those in houses.

by Khanh Chi

Mr. Chen Lian Pang, CEO of CapitalLand Vietnam (Photo from CapitalLand Vietnam)Is a house safer than a high-rise apartment in the event of fire?

Quite the contrary. As high-rise buildings are required to comply with fire safety codes and regulations, various fire safety measures are taken in the building’s design, thus providing residents with greater fire protection than a house without fire protection.

For instance, fire rated doors provided by a developer can withstand fire for up to 70 minutes before collapsing, and this timeframe is vital in allowing residents to escape and reduce the spread of the fire between apartments. It also limits the damage to the building. Another example would be how the distance from the furthest unit to the exit staircase is to be 30 meters under Singaporean standards, while our projects have a shorter distance, of 25 meters.

Regarding the recent incident at PARCSpring, what do you think about the role of the developer and of the Building Owners Committee (BOC)?

The role of the developer is important. However, property management at the building plays a crucial role too. The developer can provide all the required installations for fire protection, such as fire alarms and fire sprinklers, but if these are not properly maintained by property management and are faulty during a fire, then all efforts at fire safety go to waste.

Property management at PARCSpring was handed over from the developer to the BOC about two years ago. The BOC then engaged an external company for property management services. Despite this, CapitaLand continued to lend its support to the BOC, and the common areas of the building are insured by CapitaLand Vietnam.

When the fire occurred on the 8th floor, the fire alarm and pressurized ventilation system were activated. The BOC, together with technical and security staff, responded quickly to the emergency and did a good job in evacuating everyone quickly. The Board of Management at CapitaLand Vietnam was also quick to lend a hand. Overall, we are extremely grateful that no one was injured.

Do you think fire regulations in Singapore are better than those in Vietnam? If Vietnam’s are better than Singapore’s, why are the consequences more severe?

Fire safety regulations in Vietnam are more stringent than in Singapore. Even so, we aim to exceed the requirements in fire safety design considerations in Vietnam for all our projects.

Although Vietnam’s fire regulations are more stringent than Singapore’s, implementation is dependent upon the developer’s compliance and individual residents’ responsibility and awareness about personal fire safety measures in the home. The BOC is also important in ensuring the maintenance of fire systems and installations so they function properly when actually needed. It also needs to conduct regular fire drills to educate residents on fire escape procedures and routes of escape during evacuation.

Escape fire ladders can only reach the 10th floor, so how can people in higher floors be rescued?

As long as the property has been built in accordance with fire safety codes, there should be no issues rescuing residents on higher floors. The answer to exiting the building in a timely manner, even from higher floors, is through the pressurized exit stairwell, which keeps fire and smoke from entering the space. For the safety of residents, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of maintaining a clear path to and inside the staircase. Residents should not litter, damage the door, or place objects in this area, for their own safety and the safety of others in the event of fire.

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