Ensure safety of all dormitories

WITHIN a fortnight, the dorms of two religious schools were engulfed in fire. On Sept 14, 21 students and two teachers were killed in the fire at the boys dormitory of the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Tahfiz school in Datuk Keramat, Kuala Lumpur. Thankfully, no fatalities were reported in the Sept 28 fire at the Maahad Tahfiz Yayasan Sofa in Rembau, Negri Sembilan.

Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Tan Sri Noh Omar said recently that 76 tahfiz schools and orphanages, out of the 213 inspected nationwide, had failed to comply with safety standards, resulting in 144 notices being issued by the fire and rescue department.

It was reported that the school in Datuk Keramat did not have a certificate of completion and compliance. The rooms in the dormitory were cramped, window grills were high and the building had one entrance.

As the safety requirements for such institutions are difficult to find, I referred to what is required for pre-schools to understand the issue.

To set up a pre-school, approvals are required from the fire and rescue department and the health department.

A pre-school operator said that to obtain an operational licence for her double-storey kindergarten, she was required to build an additional fire exit staircase. Back exits are mandatory for single-storey premises.

The fire and rescue department's safety requirements for child care centres and pre-schools stipulate that there should be at least two clear exits for easy evacuation.

The building should have a firewall with a resistance period of at least two hours, separating wall with a resistance period of at least two hours, and an interior wall with a resistance period of at least half an hour.

The building must have a fire alarm, sprinklers, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. The schools are also required to conduct fire-drills.

Many of the requirements for pre-schools also apply to other institutions of learning.

On another note, what is stopping religious schools from registering themselves or adopting safety measures. Let us do everything possible to ensure the safety of children at these institutions. One life lost is one too many.

Ragananthini reports on business. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com