Last month a serious fire destroyed a large part of a luxury shopping mall in Doha, Qatar, killing 19 people. The majority of the victims were children playing at a day care center. It is impossible to comprehend the grief their parents must be feeling.
Everyone at Safety 360 would like to offer our deepest sympathy and sincere condolences to all the relatives and friends of everyone who died. Two firefighters, Mahmoud Haider and Hossam Chahboune, died in the fire while trying to rescue the children. Chahboune had already carried two children to safety before going back inside. Reports say the firefighters were found inside the day care center, one dead, one dying, with several children huddled in their arms.
Safety 360 salutes these heroes and all the brave men and women who risked their lives to help those involved in this incident.
Of course in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy, the hunt for those to blame began. The mall’s owner, manager, assistant manager, assistant director of security and the owner of the day care center were all detained by police as part of the investigation. It is possible to imagine the fear and worry they must be feeling, and if they were negligent, the guilt. Those found responsible will have to live with the guilt for the rest of their lives. The rest will blame themselves to some extent and forever wonder what they could have done to prevent the tragedy.
Will we read stories like this in the Jakarta Globe one day?
In my opinion it is only a matter of time before a tragedy like this occurs in Indonesia. Most of the big popular malls are as safe as they can be — excellent access for emergency vehicles, well-posted emergency exit signs and all of the proper fire precautions.
But there are many other malls that have very poor access and are very poorly sign-posted. They are also overcrowded, inadequately maintained and safety rules about smoking and cooking, etc., are not enforced.
The local fire department is doing its best to enforce the regulations but it is impossible for them to monitor all the malls all the time.
So what can you do to protect yourself and minimize your risk? First, only use malls that are properly managed and maintained. If you see narrow and obstructed walkways, smell cigarette smoke or unauthorized cooking or can’t see very clearly marked emergency exit routes, consider going to another mall. If you can’t easily see fire extinguishers and sprinklers that appear properly maintained, consider shopping somewhere else. If you find yourself disoriented as you walk around, not sure of where you are or where the exits are, consider spending time in another mall. Make sure you always know where the emergency exits are and where you are in relation to the normal exits.
If you must to go to a particular mall you think might be unsafe, go there when it is not so crowded and don’t stay longer than you need.
Eamonn Sadler is a writer and a columnist. He is based in Jakarta and was formerly a firefighter in Britain. For more on Safety 360, see www.safety360.org