Fire and Life Safety in Bangkok Buildings

From Bangkok Post : “Fico fire spurs sprinkler law for over 1,000 old buildings”

A tragic fire in an old  building in Bangkok gets headlines and everyone is looking around for who to blame, and a lot of talk of “New Laws” are spreading.

It seems Bangkok is destined to remain a city trailing way back behind international fire and life safety standards!

In my last week blog I talked about Buildings Inspections laws that were established back in 2006. These laws were designed specifically to deal with aging buildings  and how they need to upgrade their fire safety systems and install sprinkler to deal with fires.

So what happens? How many buildings have been inspected? How many have upgraded their fire systems?  I did a bit of digging trying to find the answers to these questions. The statisitics I have collected show an interesting story!

In the chart below, at the beginning of the year 2007, there were 1181 individuals and 134 companies who have registered with the  country with the Public works and Town Planning Department to undetarke Building Inspections.

Source: Department of Public Works & Town Planning, Bangkok Thailand

But even though the number of buildings to be inspected is more than 70,000 buildings across the country, the number of certified inspectors remains very low. Looking above at the statistic of certified building inspectors who have not renewed their licenses after 2 years and the dwindling number of inspectors, the situation is dire!

So Why are professional not interested in buildings inspection altogether? Here are few reasons I can think of;

  1. To become a building inspector you have to train 78 hours in class and 12 hours workshop or 90 hours in total. After that you have to pass the exam with to  obtain the certificate.  This certificate need to be renewed every 2 years;
  2. Most aging building have undergone many alterations and changes and owners have no records;
  3. Most aging buildings have no as-built drawings up to date to facilitate the task of the inspectors;
  4. The main reason however is the liability laid upon the inspectors; Once the buildings have been inspected, the person (s) in charge of the inspection become liable for;
  • The durability of building structure
  • Safety and adequacy of  the equipment system of the building including lift, air condition, electrical, water supply, waste water treatment plant, drainage, solid disposal, fire protection equipment, fire egress, lightning systems
  • evacuation management
  • management for building safety.

This is a very heavy responsibility!!

To ensure the professionals who are willing to undertake this type of work succeed, there must be provided with a comprehensive professional indemnity insurance  and the right professional fees to cover the work and the risks.

Sadly the professional fees are not adequate, the Professional indemnity is not adequate, the buildings records are not adequate, the number of inspectors vs the number of buildings to be inspected is not adequate.

How can this be solved?  How can Bangkok residents get the assurance that the building they live in, work in  or  shop in is safe?