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The month of March is recognized as the Fire Prevention Month in the Philippines by virtue of Proclamation No. 115-A signed by then President Ferdinand Marcos in 1966. This initiative propagates "safety consciousness among our people every day of the year as a positive preventive approach to a problem that can be solved by more caution, vigilance, sobriety, exercise of common sense and respect for the law."

However, the number of fire related incidents continue to rise even as awareness campaigns and continuous information drive are carried out by concerned government agencies.

The Bureau of Fire and Protection (BFP), the agency responsible for the prevention and suppression of all destructive fires, recorded 19,292 fire incidents nationwide last year wherein 5,121 happened in the month of March only. An escalation compared to the 2015 data which was recorded at 17,138 with 4,374 fire incidents occurred in the month of March.

News reports also state that from Jan. 1 to Feb. 15 2017, there were already 259 fires reported in the NCR. The three (3) leading causes of the said incidents are electrical connections; open flames due to torch or sulo; and, due to lighted cigarette butt.

With a tropical and maritime climate similar to many Central American countries, the Philippines experience both the rainy season from June to November; and, the dry season from December to May. The hot dry season typically starts from March until May. It is around the month of March that temperature and humidity start to reach high levels.

While it is impossible to control the weather, one can take precautions to eliminate the chances of fire in one’s household. The Department of Trade and Industry- Bureau of Philippine Standards (DTI-BPS) regulates critical products under its list of Products for mandatory product certification scheme such as electrical and electronic products, mechanical, building and construction materials, and, chemical and consumer products. One critical product that can spell the difference between life and death is a fire extinguisher.

A portable fire extinguisher is a handy, first aid fire fighting equipment used to control small fires in emergency situations. Every fire extinguisher type has different color bands to distinguish their type:

Type Color Designation Use
Dry Chemical (ABC) Red body, white band Fires involving solid materials, liquid or liquefiable solids, gases, and electrical equipment
Carbon dioxide Red body, black band Fires involving flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil, grease, and electrical equipment
Foam Red body, blue band Fires involving solid materials and flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil, grease
Halon substitute Light Green body, white band Fires involving solid materials, liquid or liquefiable solids, gases, and electrical equipment

To ensure that only safe, quality and certified products are sold in the market, all manufacturers and importers of portable extinguishers are required to apply for the Philippine Standard (PS) License and Import Commodity Clearance (ICC), respectively and subject their products to tests based on the requirement of relevant Philippine National Standard (PNS) at the BPS Testing Center or a DTI-accredited laboratory.

Only those manufacturers and importers whose products comply with the PNS requirements are issued with a PS license or an ICC Certificate, and are authorized to affix the PS and ICC marks in their products to guide consumers in distinguishing reliable and safe goods from inferior or substandard ones.

Consumers are also encouraged to look for proper markings and labelings on the packaging of the fire extinguishers. These labels include: name and address of manufacturer/refiller; registered trademark or brand name; Type of extinguishing agent (e.g. Dry Chemical); actual capacity of the extinguisher in terms of mass of extinguishing medium in kg; gross weight when fully charged; Instructions for operation; test pressure in megapascals (MPa); working pressure in kilopascals (kPA); the words “Recharge After Use” and “Dangerous to use other than the recommended and legible instructions for recharging; country of Manufacture; year of manufacture ; and, PS/ICC mark.

“The PS and ICC marks are the safeguards of consumers that the products they buy in the market are both safe and reliable to use especially in the case of fire extinguishers. We also urge the public to use only certified fire extinguishers and properly use them by reading and following instructions carefully to avoid further damage to property or even loss of lives,” BPS Officer-in-Charge Atty. Marimel Porciuncula emphasizes.

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