Interior Minister Approves Draft of Fire Safety Building Codes

Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Wednesday approved a draft sub-decree detailing new fire safety building codes as well as regulations for businesses selling flammable materials, an official said.

Neth Vantha, head of the National Police’s fire department, said the sub-decree included requirements for many buildings to have fire extinguishers and other fire response equipment within two years after the new regulations come into effect.

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People stand behind a firetruck as a blaze that razed nearly 50 houses burns in Srah Chak commune in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district in March. (Hannah Hawkins/The Cambodia Daily)

Developers of new buildings will also be required to submit construction plans to the Land Management Ministry for approval that include where fire safety infrastructure, like emergency exits, will be located, he added.

Ministry officials and local police trained to enforce the new regulations will check that businesses comply with the safety codes, Mr. Vantha said.

The draft sub-decree expands on a broad fire prevention law passed in 2013 that stipulated fire safety codes should be established.

Mr. Vantha said it would soon be sent to Prime Minister Hun Sen for his approval.

Pol Lim, an undersecretary of state at the Interior Ministry, said the aim was to prevent accidents involving fires and to share the responsibility of fire prevention among officials, businesses and citizens.

“To do firefighting is not the job of only firefighters,” Mr. Lim said. “When fire accidents occur in their own communities, the local police station needs to take action, and so do the local residents.”

He explained that the sub-decree would offer clearer guidelines for businesses that sell both flammable materials, such as gasoline and firecrackers, and fire safety products, like fire extinguishers, fire alarms, smoke detectors and sprinkler systems.

Paul Hurford, managing director at Azisafe, a risk management company that specializes in fire safety, said the regulations would be the “first official Cambodian standards” of their kind, although many developers of new construction projects already followed international standards.

“In theory, a lot of buildings would already be meeting those requirements,” he said.

They could include ensuring that occupants can exit their buildings safely in the event of an emergency, Mr. Hurford said.

He said the new fire code could mean higher construction expenses for some. “But the standard is there to ensure safety of the occupants.”

(Additional reporting by Matt Surrusco)

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