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Strictly following safety regulations and maintenance
The Saigon Times Daily
Friday,  Apr 6, 2018,14:25 (GMT+7)

Strictly following safety regulations and maintenance

The Saigon Times Daily

Chen Lian Pang - PHOTO: NGOC TRAN

The Saigon Times Daily talked with Chen Lian Pang, CEO of CapitaLand Vietnam, about the recent fire in an apartment unit of the Parc Spring building in District 2, HCMC.

The Saigon Times Daily: What is the reason of the fire in Parc Spring, and can we know the damage?

- Chen Lian Pang: Actually, we do not know in detail what the cause of the fire is. And we don’t want to speculate. So far the damage is sealed within the apartment, I did not see inside. We know it’s within a unit, an apartment. So the damage is in the bed room. So I don’t want to tell you what it is until the investigation by the police and the insurance company is over. (*)

Is it insured by CapitaLand or by the tenant himself?

- It is insured by the tenant of this apartment. But some tenants may not buy. CapitaLand buys insurance for the common property including fixtures which form part of the building structure.

I want to emphasize one thing. A high rise apartment actually is better than a house. If your buildings are properly constructed according to the Construction Code and do the maintenance properly, then it should be safe. The main door of an apartment is supposed to be fire safe for 70 minutes. But if you don’t provide a proper door, the fire will spread to the neighbor, to the whole place. So far we follow strictly the 70-minute regulation regarding the main door. Vietnamese regulations are more stringent than Singapore regarding this matter. (In Singapore the requirement is only 60 minutes.)

Can you explain why it’s safer than a normal house?

- The point is the staircase in a high rise building is very important. In the Construction Code the running distance from the farthest unit to the staircase is mentioned. For Singapore it is 30 meters, but we follow the Vietnam Code, which is 25 meters. So the distance is shorter. The shorter the better.

Moreover, once you run into the staircase, it is pressurized so the fire cannot go into the staircase. And normally it should be pressurized by a system with a fan and standalone generator (in case of blackouts). And 24 hours a day. But the door conducted to the staircase should open only one side. And you can go down one or two hours without any problem.

The door swing in or swing out is very important. In Singapore the door can actually swing one way - swing in. It cannot swing out because swing out is very dangerous as fire will spread in. In Vietnam it has been never mentioned that you can’t swing out.

Because once we pressurize the door, the pressure will not let it swing out. If a fire comes, it cannot go in. If the door swings out it will be opened, and smoke could get in.  

With a house you’ve got trees around. And if the ground floor is on fire, and you’re on the fourth floor, how can you run? And when the neighbor’s house is on fire, the fire will spread to you fast unlike apartments. Within apartments you’ve got 70 minutes before the main door burns to the ground. But in a house, when your neighbor’s house is on fire, you have only 30 minutes. Unless you live in a villa with land around.

What else you’d want to add?

- Residents must be educated about safety measures and performed routine fire drills. The fire alarm should work well. And then the fire sprinkler system also. When there’s a fire, the fire sprinklers should be operational, so water will come out. So it’s very important that developers respect the Construction Code, and build all these things. 

Then it’s all about property management. That was a problem in the dramatic Carina fire case, I think. Maintenance, you see, is also very important.

I’m very worried that some developers and residents form the Building Owners Committee (BOC) so quickly since they don’t have any experiences in running a residential building. Some pressured me to hand over, but I refused. I have to take care of thousands of residents, and not just 10 to 20 who want to take over. We want to train people for one or two years about many things such as security measures, then we hand over the control to the BOC. We also train them how to manage a residential building. 

For Parc Spring we still get involved and make sure things are done properly because at the end of the day, it’s CapitaLand brand you know. For example, in the public area, all the residents, all the contractors, all the public dump rubbish. And we still go in and clear it up. We educate the residents also, trying to keep the place clean. Even when the road got damaged by others, we also repaired it.

Reported by Ngoc Tran

(*) A representative of the District 2 fire unit has told the Tuoi Tre newspaper on Monday the blaze was started by an overheated power bank. The owner of the apartment had left the portable charger plugged in for several days when he was out. It caught fire and spread to a pile of books, a laptop, and eventually the mattress.

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