By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
OWNERS OF older buildings have been urged to improve their fire protection systems to meet current standards, as many do not comply with life-saving regulations.
After the recent fire at an apartment building in Bangkok’s Phya Thai district – where three people were killed and many others injured – experts from the Engineering Institute of Thailand (EIT) yesterday urged the owners of older buildings to install all required fire-protection systems and encouraged residents to be aware of safety methods and equipment.
EIT president Thanes Weerasiri said recent fire disasters showed that older buildings, which were built before the enforcement of the earliest building control regulations in 1992, had a higher risk of fire because they were not required to install fire protection systems when they were built.
“The tragic fire last week at an apartment building in Phya Thai district proves that fire in old buildings can be very severe and fatal due to many weaknesses in the fire prevention systems of these buildings, even though there is already retrospective regulation that requires old buildings to improve their fire protection,” Thanes said.
“This is a big lesson for everybody, that even though we have the law to prevent fire disasters, such a tragedy still occurs due to inefficient law enforcement. Society must have more awareness on this issue and make sure that all buildings are installed with minimum fire protection standards.”
Busakorn Saensookh, chairperson of EIT’s safety engineering committee, said that the loss of lives in last week’s tragedy could have easily been avoided if the apartment had been equipped with a fire alarm, as many people were sleeping when the fire broke out in the middle of the night.
Busakorn said it was very important for all fire protection systems to be inspected on all buildings, especially residential buildings that have more chance of casualties. The first regulation on fire protection systems in new buildings was passed in 1992 and called for new tall and large buildings to have minimum fire protection systems installed. Subsequent ministerial regulations in 1994, 1997, 2000 and 2005 made the building control rules on fire protection stronger.
Regulations in 1997 required all buildings, regardless of year of construction, to be equipped with a minimum of six fire protection systems, including an emergency stairwell fire escape route, a fire alarm system and lights and signs indicating the fire escape route. Thanes said that EIT had made suggestions to the government to let building owners willingly comply with the fire protection regulations but there has not been any feedback on the suggestions yet.