BUTTERWORTH: The Penang Fire and Rescue Department today announced that nearly half of some 400 tahfiz schools in the state are safe, but added that issues such as grilles and the location of hydrants were of concern.
Fire superintendent Mohd Syafiq Mohd Jamil said based on an audit of tahfiz schools and attached dorms carried out from earlier this year until now, many of the centres were found to have grilles installed on their windows.
He said the schools in question had been told to remove the grilles or ensure a “break glass” section to allow occupants to escape in the event of a fire.
Syafiq, who heads the fire safety division of the Penang Fire and Rescue Department, said some schools also installed grilles on stairways for safety reasons.
He said the schools’ operators were told to leave these open or remove them altogether to allow an unobstructed escape route in the event of a fire.
“Also, many of the schools are located far away from hydrants. During the dry season, water is scarce, especially in village areas, and firefighting becomes tough.
“Perhaps the local authorities could have them installed closer to these schools,” Syafiq told reporters at a press conference near Sungai Dua here today.
There are currently 349 Islamic religious schools of various types registered in Penang.
Syafiq said most tahfiz schools in the state had decent escape routes and assembly points, but there was still room for improvement.
“We want to educate these schools to have a fire marshal. This fire marshal would then gather the occupants at an assembly point, which ideally should be at a safe distance from the school,” he said.
Earlier, Syafiq and his officers inspected SM Agama ‘Ibrah at Kampung Tanjung Putus to assess its readiness in the event of a fire.
Syafiq also delivered a one-hour lecture to some 200 students on fire readiness at the school.
The school, which has a dorm not far from the centre’s compounds, was declared safe by fire department officials.
Urging more schools to take part in the “Skuad Bomba” fire readiness training for students and teachers, Syafiq said the training session was eight hours long but could be split into two four-hour sessions.
Firemen would conduct the training at the respective schools, he added.
“As of now, we have 20 Skuad Bomba certified schools. It is free, and we hope more can join.”
Schools interested in taking part in the training session can reach out to their nearest fire stations for details.
The Skuad Bomba was formed by Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Noh Omar on May 30 to reduce the incidence of fires at tahfiz schools.
He told BH Online that in the first three months of the year, 30 of the 1,785 fire outbreaks had involved tahfiz schools.
The issue came under scrutiny following the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz school fire two weeks ago which resulted in the deaths of 21 students and two teachers.
Police arrested seven teenagers suspected of having committed mischief by fire, some of whom were under the influence of drugs.