What National Disaster Awareness Day?

Night view of Petronas Twin Towers
Petronas Twin Towers.

December 26 has been declared as National Disaster Awareness Day. Is Malaysia prepared to tackle disasters? Is the government really serious in this matter? Millions of lives are at stake. What has been done to ensure that when a disaster does occur, the loss of lives is reduced to a minimum? I do not have the figures but high-rise buildings number in the tens of thousands all over the country. These structures are in extreme danger should another earthquake occur or a major fire break out. Do the relevant departments such as the Jabatan Bomba dan Penyelamat and other rescue and relief agencies have the expertise to deal with such eventualities, especially in evacuating people who are mobility impaired? I have my reservations.

The developer of the high-rise apartments where I live has repeatedly ignored requests to set up a Contingency Plan for Fires and Emergencies. The Residents’ Association likewise has disregarded this issue. Similar letters to the Chief Minister of Penang, State Assemblyman of the area I live in, Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang, Pejabat Tanah dan Galian, Jabatan Bomba dan Penyelamat, Kementerian Pembangunan Wanita, Keluarga dan Masyarakat and Kementerian Perumahan dan Kerajaan Tempatan did not garner the desired action.

The letter to Dato Seri Sharizat was handed over to the Jabatan Kebajikan Mayarakat Malaysia (JKMM) for further action where they replied. I was advised to get the developer and the Residents’ Association to work together with the Jabatan Penyelamat dan Bomba. A copy of that letter was also forwarded to The Penang Chief Minister’s Office who responded with a non-commital reply. I wrote a letter dated September 7 2005 to the developer and the Residents’ Association and copied it to ten other parties, including the Chief Minister of Penang, the two ministries and the Jabatan Bomba dan Penyelamat, among others. I have yet to receive a response from the developer, the Residents’ Association and the other ten parties whom the letter was copied to. I was supposed to get back to JKMM but have not done so due to the busy schedule I have been keeping. Nevertheless, the JKMM is not the proper government agency to handle this matter. This is not a welfare problem but one that requires know-how in emergency evacuation and rescue.

The developer, other than erecting unapproved structures all over the place and running the day to day affairs of the premises at their whim and fancy, have not taken into account the safety of apartment owners and residents. The individual strata titles for the apartments have not been issued yet. As far as the law is concerned, the buildings still belong to the developer, a stand that the developer has time and again reminded us when we take issue that apartment owners were not consulted on all aspects of the management and expenditure. Strangely, where safety issues are concerned, they persistently refuse to act. It makes one wonder where their priorities lie.

The following is an excerpt from The Star’s report December 26 is now Disaster Awareness Day dated December 27, 2005:

Najib, who is also chairman of the National Disaster Management and Relief Committee, said just as the country had early warning systems to detect disasters, the people should also be prepared.

“The people should not take lightly that natural disasters can occur any time and must be prepared to face any eventuality. We do not want to hear any more of families refusing to evacuate even as floodwater is rising.

Bloggers who displayed Mack Zulkifli’s yellow banner in their blogs have supported the call for a systematic evacuation plan, not only for people with permanent disabilities, but those who are temporarily incapacitated, the elderly and the mobility impaired. I have written letters to the various government ministries and agencies regarding this matter. Evidently, no response was forthcoming. I am not in the mood for appropriating some fancy name to December 26. I want to see action, action that will save lives. The developer of my apartment is hopeless. Consequently, I implore the government draw up a Contingency Plan for Fires and Emergencies to ensure the safety of its citizens living in high-rise buildings. Malaysian bloggers did not take another occurance of such life threatening calamities lightly but is the government taking our pleas seriously? Is the government even aware that there is a dire need for a proper evacuation plan? I am mobility impaired and want to be safely evacuated in the event of a disaster but is anybody listening?

The letter to the developer and the Residents’ Association:
Rancangan Pemindahan Teratur Semasa Bencana (PDF)

The letter from Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat Malaysia:
Page 1
Page 2
Page 3

Letter from the Office of the Chief Minister, Penang:
Disaster Involving High-Rise Buildings

Related entry:
Dear Dato’ Seri Shahrizat

Related category:
Building Manager From Hell

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