The Government provides stringent regulations on Safety & Risk Prevention in high-rise buildings, which all Real Estate developers closely follow. However, when accidents occur on balconies of operating apartment towers, the role of the project Property Management Board comes under closer scrutiny.
According to Ms. Vu Kieu Hanh, Savills Hanoi Head of Property Management, State regulations on apartment building safety are fully adhered to, from the very start and throughout project development, with approvals required at every step. From original design to official approval, to construction, including installation of all project components, and to handover. Essentially everything requires approval before being deemed safe for public use. Operations are then generally handed over to a sub-management unit, or a third party property management agency, who then assume day-to-day responsibility for the entire project. Project-user safety regulations also require official reviews and approvals. Safety issues are directly related to real estate operations and management, which is why professional property management companies have proven risk prevention guidelines. Savills Property Management has guidelines on balcony safety nets which outline the following issues requiring close attention.
A key aspect is what the safety net is made of. If the material is too rigid and secured too well, it will complicate and slowdown balcony rescue operations, a major concern in the case of fire, especially when people on other unit balconies are waiting to be rescued. Balconies are also designed as a secondary emergency exit. Savills Vietnam provides Fire Safety & Prevention guidelines to residents of their managed projects which clearly define balconies as the primary rescue point when using other exits becomes life threatening. When homeowners with children, especially those under 5 years old, look to install balcony safety nets, the first, possibly most essential step, is careful consideration of the material.
Safety nets require a strong flexible material with good weight-bearing capacity, such as plastic coated wire, or light cable. In case of emergency, specialist cutting tools need to be immediately available in the apartment to swiftly cut through the wire-mesh. Iron, or stainless steel frames, while giving a clear impression of security, should be avoided. By being bolted, or even welded, to the building, cutting an exit hole would take far too long. The rapid speed of how fire can spread, with often highly toxic smoke compounding the immediate threat to life, requires an urgent, yet calm and controlled response from residents, best counted in seconds.
Responsible child supervision also plays a major role. Families with young children should avoid leaving tables, chairs, or boxes on the balcony. If a table is required near a window, the window should remain closed, and inaccessible for a child. Installation of window or balcony door locks are very effective solutions, but forgetfulness, or simply distraction, together with a highly active child, can quickly result in an event cascade to disaster.
Safety & Risk Prevention in apartment developments should be strictly implemented by project management boards. According to State regulations, twice a year, management staff in every apartment project, require safety control and risk prevention training, often with live Fire & Rescue rehearsals. However, despite the rapid development of Real Estate in Viet Nam, few Property Management Companies have specialist Safety and Risk Management departments. This is not so much a reflection of the companies themselves, but more services being restricted to security, finance management, car-parking management, etc.
Savills has a Safety & Risk Management Department which is fully responsible for updating official safety regulations to every Savills managed project, including briefing all management teams, while ensuring project safety manuals and resident guidelines are kept fully up to date. The department requires specialist fire safety talent to correctly advise investors throughout development, with supervisory reviews solely focused to resident safety, and, in case of fire, to ensure a speedy, yet controlled evacuation of the building. This ensures the project fully aligns with - or as Savills focuses on - exceeds official safety standards to further limit any possible risk.
According to the Viet Nam Construction Code on Housing & Public Works QCXDVN 05: 2008 / BXD & National Technical Regulation QCVN 04: 2019 / BXD on condominiums, regulations on fences, balustrades, balconies, including the heights from floor to windowsill in an apartment building must not be less than 1.4 m. Any areas regularly used by children under 5 officially require any railing gap does not exceed 100mm, and any railing is not easily climbable by children.
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