Monday, December 5, 2011

Review procedures to prevent gas leak fires

IN the mid-1990s, a door-to-door salesman came to my condo to sell me a metered gas regulator.

The palm-sized device was made of brass and simple to operate. It looked like the common gas regulator, except that it had a small meter which shows the amount of gas left in the tank.

The metered regulator cost RM90, almost eight times more than the regular ones. I bought one for two reasons - it had an automatic shutdown feature which cuts off supply from the tank if there were a leak and lets me know how much gas is left so that I know when to order a new tank.

I hated having to keep a spare tank at home all the time. My fear of a gas leak was as great as running out of gas halfway through cooking my favourite bak kut teh.

But it was a necessary nightmare, before I stumbled upon the metered regulator.

I was even more impressed when the salesman told me that the metered regulator came with a RM1 million liability-insurance and was guaranteed to last five years.

Mine lasted me nine years but, when I went looking for a new one, I was told that it was no longer produced. Apparently, the price was too high for its time and the company had folded.

Last week, when I read that a blast had damaged a restaurant on the ground floor at Maju Junction, my thoughts went back to the metered regulator and gas safety. The blast is the second, involving a food outlet, which is believed to be due to a gas leak.

On Sept 28, the Empire Shopping Gallery in Subang Jaya made the headlines when a gas explosion destroyed a restaurant and injured four people.

The complex has since reopened and, according to reports, eateries there have been fitted with a brand new gas line, backed up by a state-of-the-art gas sensor that runs round-the-clock.

Although no one was hurt in the latest blast, I think the authorities should review current procedures for ensuring the safety of the eateries operating in enclosed premises, especially those that see high pedestrian traffic.

Are regular safety inspections, not just health checks, carried out at such eateries before their business licenses are renewed annually?

In case of a fire, especially at eateries in the older shopping complexes, are the kitchen areas shielded to protect people - at least for the duration needed to evacuate everyone?

Apart from regular smoke detectors and sprinklers, should all eateries in old shopping complexes be equipped with gas leak detection systems?

It also gives me the jitters when I see fast-food outlets operating within a shouting distance of petrol stations.

There is no telling what can happen if an eatery near an underground petrol bunker catches fire, as a result of human carelessness or a faulty stove.

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