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Fire prevention and fighting golden trident
Huy Anh - Dat Le 09:41, 2024/06/05
Landlords, tenants and local government form a trident that leads fire prevention and suppression.

Local authorities, landlords and tenants form a trident to ensure fire safety and prevention standards, as lessons learned from recent catastrophic events have shown. Lieutenant Colonel Tran Van Dong, a lecturer at the University of Fire Prevention and Fighting, talks to The Hanoi Times about how to strengthen the three forces and prevent fires in the future.

 Senior Lieutenant Colonel Tran Van Dong, lecturer at the University of Fire Prevention and Fighting.

What do you think about the fire safety of rental houses in big cities such as Hanoi?

As of the beginning of May 2024, nearly 2,200 buildings in Hanoi did not meet the standards for fire prevention and firefighting according to the Law on Fire Prevention and Firefighting. There were more than 1,800 apartment and tenement buildings, over 31,200 rental houses, and approximately 39,200 houses of combined residential and commercial use at risk from fire and explosion.

Hanoi also has many dilapidated buildings that are prone to fire. Meanwhile, the underdeveloped infrastructures and the lack of fire hydrants also undermine fire prevention, fighting and rescue.

If we look at the issue more closely, it's easy to see that people with higher incomes and educational attainment are likely to have access to better life and asset protection. They often live in areas with good infrastructure and fire safety. Meanwhile, low-income people seek shelter in rental housing, which does not always meet fire safety criteria.

People, regardless of income level, need to be trained and improve their knowledge and skills in fire prevention and suppression. For those with higher incomes, they have the time to access these activities. Meanwhile, low-income people tend to ignore training courses because they are busy earning a living. This has become a major concern for Hanoi authorities, especially after 56 people were killed in a tenement fire last September.

What can be done to minimize casualties and property damage in the event of a fire?

Fire and explosion prevention requires the best efforts of local authorities, property owners and tenants working together. These three parties form a trident.

Rental houses have proliferated in Hanoi's urbanized rural villages. The houses are usually narrow and space-constrained, making it difficult for landlords to install a proper fire safety system. The narrow alleyways make it difficult for fire trucks to enter.

The remains of the house burned in the fire on May 24. Photo: The Hanoi Times

So, urban planning is the key. For example, in a narrow alley, a landlord should not be allowed to fill his property with a building of tens of tenements. Only low buildings occupying smaller lots should be tolerated.

Next, it's the local fire authorities. They need to consolidate oversight of local homes and give owners some time to fix their fire safety deficiencies, if they are minor. If the defects are serious and life-threatening, landowners must immediately correct their defects or shut down their facilities. Local fire departments should advise ministries and state agencies to update laws and technical regulations on fire prevention and firefighting.

Landlords and tenants have the most important role in this matter. The owner of the house must constantly remind his family members of their duties as regulated by the law, and must carry out regular inspections and eliminate defects that can lead to fire and explosion. The landlord must also work with local authorities and neighbors to ensure that fire safety codes are followed and that the building is well equipped with all safety devices.

As mentioned above, most tenants are low-income people, so they tend to rent a small apartment. They should be made aware that their places are not safe enough, so they must spend time improving their knowledge and skills in fire prevention and suppression and teach others.

The "golden time" in fire prevention and suppression is the first five minutes after a fire breaks out. Therefore, it is imperative that people and local governments follow protocol during this time. We have some models that actually work well, including the inter-family fire safety group and the public fire station.

What do you think of the idea of prohibiting homeowners from renting out their homes?

The government and the fire department want to be supportive. We want to give people a better life where they are free to do business safely. We would not tell them to stop doing business.

It is the right of landowners to build houses and offer their property for rent. It's wrong to prohibit them from doing so. Instead, local authorities should encourage landlords to ensure fire safety, prevent fires, and protect people's lives and property.

Thank you for your time! 

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09:41, 2024/06/05
Fire prevention and fighting golden trident
Landlords, tenants and local government form a trident that leads fire prevention and suppression.