KOTA KINABALU: Sabah chief minister Hajiji Noor has called for the current procedure of the Malaysian Emergency Response Services (MERS999) system, now centralised in Putrajaya, to be changed.
This came in the wake of claims that firefighters had lost precious seconds in responding to a blaze that killed a family of four in Taman Hungab, Penampang, near here on Tuesday, as the distress call had to be routed to Putrajaya first under the system.
Hajiji was saddened by the fate that had befallen the family, saying emergency calls, especially those involving fires and needing urgent help, should not be referred all the way to Putrajaya first.
“Why wasn’t the call that came from Sabah routed directly to the related agency, such as the state or district fire department?
“Why don’t they just give the (appropriate) number to contact?” he asked in a statement here today.
“There is no need to ask so many questions because every call to MERS999 would involve emergency matters.
“We have to be sensitive to the situation. In times of emergency, there is bound to be panic and there will be no time to provide all information needed.
“I hope the MERS999 standard operating procedures will be changed and simplified, including connecting the call to agencies at the district or state level.”
The fire claimed the lives of Matthew Wong, 50, his wife Jecky Vun Kon Fung, 48, and their sons Brendan, 18, and Eric, 15.
Former chief minister Shafie Apdal yesterday questioned whether it was wise to centralise the MERS999 system in Putrajaya.
Shafie said the current system of directing all emergency calls to Putrajaya should be rectified because it added further delay when responding to crisis situations.
“Why can’t we have a Sabah-based emergency response system where the responders would be clearly aware of the areas being mentioned by callers?”
Calling for a review of the system, he said an account by a witness shared with the media appeared to indicate the responders were not certain of the exact location of the incident.
Meanwhile, Hajiji urged the public to save on their handphones important numbers that directly put them in touch with local agencies, such as police and fire stations as well as hospitals. This was besides calling the MERS999 number for help.