According to data that was collected by the Selangor Fire and Rescue Department, there have been 6,015 fire cases between 2012 and 2017. Out of the 6015 cases, 1,458 of them happened to terrace houses. The most common causes of house fires identified are unattended cooking, electrical malfunctions, candles, and smoking.

Unfortunately, the cause of death due to house fires is unexpectedly high. According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) 2017 report, 265,000 children die from a house fire every year. This translates to roughly one child dying from fire-related injuries every 2 weeks.

Knowing what to do in case of a fire may help to reduce these numbers and keep your loved ones safe. So what is the first thing you should do if you scent the smell of smoke spreading through your home?

Step 1: Identify where the smoke is coming from

Image source:

The moment you notice a smoke scent in your house, attempt to locate its source. Locating the source of smoke first is most important in identifying a fire before it starts to grow. It may still be in its early stages such as a paper on fire or a pan of food that has caught fire. Should it still be in its early stages, put it out immediately.

Should you discover that the fire is too big to put out, move on to the next step immediately.

Step 2: Call 999

The number 999 is connected to the Malaysia Emergency Response Services (MERS) integrated system. It is the emergency number that incorporates the emergency department of 5 different agencies which include the Fire and Rescue Department of Malaysia (FRDM), Royal Malaysian Police (RMP), Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH), Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) and Department of Civil Defence (DCD).

In the event you realise that the fire in your home is too big for you to put out yourself, the first thing you should do is call 999 for help. This will ensure that the fire brigade gets to your home in the shortest amount of time possible.

Step 3: Shout and ask everyone to leave the house

Should you be staying with family, immediately shout as loud as possible to alert everyone to the dangers and to evacuate the house as fast as possible. If the fire has grown too big that there is heavy smoke, drop onto the floor and crawl out of the house as fast as you can. The air closer to the floor will be more breathable.

If you happen to pass through any doors on the way out of your house, close as many of them as you can to slow the spread of the fire. Shout for your family members to do the same, and focus on getting everyone out of the house as fast as you can.

Step 4: Wait for the fire brigade to arrive

Image source:

As soon as everyone is safely out of the house, keep everyone a safe distance from the house as the heat will be unbearable. Then you will need to wait for the fire brigade to arrive and put the fire out.

Step 5: Find a safe space to sleep for the night

Things will be very chaotic and surreal for a bit. The shock of having your house catch on fire may panic you as you try to evaluate your losses, but the first thing you need to do is to find a safe space to sleep for the night.

You will need to call a family member or friend immediately, someone who can take your family and you in for a bit until you sort things out. If you are alone and away from family, contact your friends and seek someone who can set you up for the night.

In the worst case scenario, you may need to find a hotel to stay at for a bit until you sort things out. You may be able to bargain for long term rates should you need to stay longer than a few days.

Step 6: Contact your insurance company

The next thing to do will be to contact your insurance company. Every home purchase usually comes with insurance. Contact your agent to get your house damage evaluated and claim your insurance. Once the evaluators have evaluated the damage, you can begin the process of obtaining your insurance claims money and start looking into contacting professionals to repair your home.

What to Do if You Are Unable to Escape A Burning House?

The worst case scenario in the case of a fire is to be trapped in the house. This would be everyone’s worst nightmare. There is however a way to save yourself.

Step 1: Cover all cracks and crevices with wet cloths and wet blankets

The first thing to do is to prevent the smoke from coming into your space. Most fire-related deaths happen due to smoke inhalation instead of the fire itself, so you will need to protect your air by preventing the smoke from coming into your space. Wet the blankets and any cloth you can find, and cover all the spaces between the floor and the door. The wet cloth will also help to slow the spread of the fire.

Step 2: Cover yourself with wet material

Another prevention step is to take any remaining wet material and cover yourself with it. This will help to lower your body temperature, as the heat from the fire will be unbearable. It will also help to make yourself fire resistant for a bit.

Step 3: Stop, Drop, and Roll

In the event you find yourself catching on fire, stop running. Drop onto the ground and roll around to put the flames out. In the event that you are pushed to this step, remember to protect your head and face with your hands.

Step 4: Wave a light or bright cloth out your window

It will be difficult for onlookers from the outside to spot you as the light and heat from the fire will be intense. You will need to help them and the firefighters locate you by waving a light or bright cloth outside your window. Once they spot you, the firefighters will be able to take the next step in saving you.

This may involve a firefighter running in to locate you and get you out, or even opening an air bed in order for you to jump out of the window and land on safely.

Step 5: Get hospitalised

No matter how mild or severe the fire is, should you have inhaled any smoke, you should be hospitalised for observation. Smoke inhalation is dangerous and damaging to your body.

What to Do if You See Your Neighbour’s House on Fire?

Image source:

Sometimes the person from the outside of the home may be able to spot the fire earlier than its occupants, as they see plumes of smoke rise into the air. Should you see suspicious clouds of smoke rise into the air from your neighbour’s house, do take the below actions.

Step 1: Call Your Neighbour’s Mobile or House Number, or Ring Their Doorbell

As typical Malaysians, we may be reluctant to call our neighbours just in case they are just practicing a case of open burning in their backyard or having a barbecue party gone bad. Nevertheless, a small case of sheepish laughter should it not actually be a fire is better than the regrets that will come later if their house does indeed go up in flames.

So if you see strange plumes of smoke rising from your neighbour’s house, call them on their mobile immediately. Should you not have their mobile number, do go to their house and ring on their doorbell. Alert them on the smoke should they not be aware of it.

Step 2: Call 999 if you see fire

Image source:

Should the smoke you see be rising out of the house in copious amounts and you are certain that something is very wrong, call 999 immediately. There is a possibility that your other neighbours or the house owner may already have called it in, but there is also a possibility that you are the very first person who noticed something amiss. Call 999 immediately to report the fire, and wait for the fire brigade to arrive.

Should your house be immediately next to your neighbour’s you may want to hose down your house to slow the spread of the fire to your house. You will also need to prepare to evacuate in case the fire spreads uncontrollably.

Reducing Fire Incidents in Malaysia

The possibility of experiencing a house fire accident in Malaysia may seem far and distant, but this was also the case for many people until they became victims themselves. Knowing the steps to take in case of a fire breakout can be crucial to not only saving yourself and your neighbours from monetary damage – but it can also be crucial in saving lives.

For more guides like this, please visit PropSocial's article page.

(Written by Isabelle, 12th August 2021)