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Homeowners face fire negligence charge

Nasik Swami
Thursday, February 07, 2013

THE National Fire Authority intends to penalise homeowners who lose their homes to fire if the cause is proven to have been a case of negligence.

This was confirmed by NFA chief executive officer John O'Connor in an interview yesterday.

Mr O'Connor said the new laws they were trying to develop were part of the review of NFA's operational legislation that had been in place since 1994.

He said the new legislation would guide the NFA on whether to take action against people if their house fires were proven to have been caused by negligence.

"The purpose of the review is to have legislation that encompasses all the functions of NFA. Firstly, the current legislation focuses on firefighting activities. All other services such as ambulance service, (rescue) services during disaster and accidents were not included in the legislation," Mr O'Connor said.

He said they hoped to have this legislated by the end of the year.

The intention of penalising people for proven case of negligence, he added, was a result of increasing house fires.

When questioned on whether their intention for the new law was to instil fear in people so they are extra cautious, Mr O'Connor responded: "Yes, true. That is what I am saying. Once they are aware that there is a new legislation, then it's our part to go back and communicate the requirements to the public that these are their responsibilities and accountabilities and if they do not, this is what can happen. Hopefully, we can drive a total shift in terms of attitude. That's the focus."

He said the core function of NFA had changed and it was important for them to undertake the review.

"Legislation is like a proactive approach, when the responsibilities and accountabilities are clearly outlined in the legislation, then people will take more accountability," Mr O'Connor said.

"When there is no clear demarcation of rules and responsibilities, then when we do investigations, it is very difficult to allocate responsibility," he said.

"What we want to do in this legislation is to proactively address those issues," he said.

He said following the legislation, NFA would only have to determine the facts and allocate responsibility and if people failed to fulfil that responsibility, they would be taken to task.

"The purpose of the review is to have a holistic approach and focus on preventative measures rather than the reactive side when there is a fire."

He said the new legislation would be similar to that of Australia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Mr O'Connor said they will hold public consultations on the new laws shortly and all details would be outlined in advertisements.





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