MVFRA VISION - To Be The Leading Volunteer  Fire & Rescue Association in The Region


Playing with fire
The SUN Magazine, Saturday January 16,

Malaysia still lacks a safety culture. This has led to the increasing number of fire incidents in the country. Fairos Nazri reports.

“FIRE,WHEN SMALL, IS A HELPFUL friend, but when it becomes too large, it is a foe.” This a famous Malay saying that often reminds people of the extreme dangers of fire. In Malaysia, fire occur daily and are deemed serious. Between and , a total of 11,896 cases of fire in buildings were reported. This means an average of 2,379 fires a year or seven fires a day.

In alone, the Fire and Rescue Department(FRD) received a total of 24,530 emergency calls. Of this, 9,396 or 38% were not related to fires. However 42 people died and 77 were injured as a result of fires during this period, an increase from 32 victims in . A total of RM412.61 million worth of loss from fires was reported in , an increase of 2.1% over .

According to the FRD’s director general, Datuk Dr Soh Chai Hock, more than 90% of fires in the country are caused by human negligence. He says that the department’s investigation found stipulated fire safety measures which were not followed by building owner as the major contributor.  “Were found fire exits at many commercial and factory lots closed and blocked, and sprinkler systems switched off. Malaysians still lack a safety culture which this department has been advocating.”

In view of the dangers and seriousness of fires in the country, K.Balasupramaniam, a former cadet corps at the FRD, established the Malaysian Volunteer Fire And Rescue Association(MVFRA). Set up in , MVFRA acts as a back-up unit for fire prevention, safety and rescue work for FRD.

This association began with only three members but now has some 880 volunteers throughout the Federal Territory  and Selangor. MVFRA is funded by its own members with the motto “fast, efficient and tenacious”. So far, the association has trained some 5,000 people, including school children, university students, the public, non-government organizations(NGOs) and Cadet corps.

Since its inception, MVFRA has been involved in several major disasters which have occurred in the country, including the Bright Sparkle Sungai Buluh Fire Works tragedy,Chun Hoong III, Port Klang LPG explosion, landslide tragedy in Genting  Highlands, Highland Tower Condominium disaster and TUDM air crash in Salak South.

Balasupramaniam, who is the founder and chairman of the association, explains that MVFRA is equipped with fire fighting equipment as well as educational materials. The three main objectives of the association are:

1)      Prevention: to create public awareness of fire and accident prevention through campaigns such as the Zero Fire Campaign (), Hydrant Adoption Campaign () and Road Rescue Rider Programme().

2)     Training: to train individuals with the association and community who are committed  to fire Prevention and rescue works as well as enhance discipline and high moral standard.

3)     Assisting: to act as a secondary backup to the FRD and to help disaster victims as required.


Public safety programmes like the Fire Hydrant Adoption Campaign taught residents to clean and maintain fire hydrants near their homes in order to avoid breakdowns during emergencies. This is done through gotong-royong sessions and has covered 1,800 hydrants in Federal Territory and Selangor so far.

The Zero Fire Campaign trains the public on fire prevention  and fire fighting methods during emergencies while the Road Rescue Riders Programme aims to change the attitudes of bystanders at accident sites and to become the immediate first aider to victims before the ambulance arrives.

“ I had an accident four years ago while I was on my bike and that prompted me to implement this programme, as nobody come to help me. They just covered my face with a newspaper, thinking that I had died,” recalls Balasupramaniam. “So we want to create skills and knowledge on proper  ways to help road accident victims.”

Those interested to join the association can register  as a lifetime member for RM26. Members need to undergo a three-month basic training which is carried out four times a year with 30 people per-intake. The training not only teaches about fire fighting and rescue works which comprise physical, theoretical, practical and medical aspects, but also what volunteerism is all about leadership, what one can contribute to society and what you can gain by joining the association.

Members need to go through a regular and systematic theory and practical training to equip them with professional knowledge in handling fire protection and fire fighting operations safely and correctly. Participants are also required to go through basic CPR and emergency patient care training that will enable them to provide cardiac resuscitation. Those 18 and above can join; training to be instructors include self-discipline and public speaking.

“ We are encouraging the handicapped (the blind, deaf or disabled) to join us, so that they can also learn something about fire prevention ,” Balasupramaniam adds. The fee for non-active members is also RM26 but they will undergo a one-day training held any Sunday for two hours.

The association has a Disaster Assistance Unit to help natural disaster victims as landslides, fires or floods and contributes used clothes or mattresses to the affected parties, especially children, the disabled and pregnant women. “For members of public who intend to learn MVFRA courses, we don’t charge them. But for companies and factories, we charge them a minimal fee,” Balasupramaniam explains.

Training is provided for road accident rescue, cardio pulmonary resuscitation(CPR), rappelling and abseiling, industrial accident, two way transmission(on walkie-talkie), fire fighting and drills(marching) and participants can be part of the Emergency Respond Team, Hotel Emergency Response Team(HERTS),Factory Emergency Respond Team(FERTS) as well as becoming a fire respondent in life.

But what are the problems faced by the association when carrying out its task ? “The biggest problems is that most Malaysian have a tidak apa attitude and lack interest to learn about fire safety,” Balasupramaniam admints.” They fell that their homes or building will not catch fire. But they are wrong because accidents can occur anytime, anywhere and anyplace. We can’t say that if the house is made of bricks and installed with fire safety system, it won’t catch fire. Being Malaysians, only after experiencing the fire tragedy, they would change and this would already be too late. Many lives have been gone in this tragedy.”

He says that most Malaysians don’t take safety seriously, adding that safety should be among the upmost priories and they should be equipped with knowledge, skills and experience. By joining the association, Balasupramaniam points out, it helps the public in the end, especially those with children and elderly persons at home. The association plans to launch a Children’s Safety Campaign later this year, which will be geared towards safety in school, the home and playground.

To this end, MVFRA intends to send real messages to kindergartens, primary schools and parent-teacher association about fire safety and prevention. “ We would like to get parents involved with the Campaign so that they are aware of it. Parents and teachers must tell children about the danger or playing with fire and the adverse effects of it.”

Balasupramaniam also plans to set up a Jungle Search and Rescue Team with cooperation of the Fire and Rescue Department by the end of this year for campers who are lost in the jungle.

Besides this, he calls on Malaysians to inculcate the culture of providing safety kits( such a smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and fist aid kits) as presents on occasions like house warnings, birthdays or anniversaries. “ Instead of giving flowers, chocolates or perfume, these safety kits are gifts that could save lives.”

Balasupramaniam outlined several things that the public could do in terms of fire prevention. These include:

• Knowing how to escape during the fire; placing fire detectors, extinguisher, sprinklers and safety grills properly;

• Planning proper exists and ensuring that keys are available when doors are locked;

• Teaching children how to dial for emergency assistance or what to do when the fire occurs;

• Having a good rapport with your neighbours in case of an emergency;

• Co-operating  with the nearest Fire and Rescue Station as well as Health and Police Department;

• Setting up a Fire Prevention or Residents Safety Awareness Committee in the neighbourhood and inviting MVFRA to assist in safety subjects;

• Reminding children not to make crank calls to the Fire and Rescue Department;

• Reminding calm in the case of fire; panicking would only worsen the situation. To overcome panic, one should be skillful, wise, alert and aggressive.

Asked about MVFRA’s future plans, Balasupramaniam stresses that the association wants to be one of the best in the country in terms of safety.

“ We want to make the country a safe place and reduce the number of fires. Always remember that prevention is better than cure, but it needs to go with knowledge, skill and understanding about fire safety. The association also intends to create a community which is non-selfish and willing to help others in unpleasant circumstances.”     


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