Common cause of House Fires in Jakarta

A comment made by Mr. Paimin Napitupulu (Jakarta Fire Fighter Chief) to the Jakarta Post recently was that “as of March 5, Jakarta witnessed 139 fire incidents, 107 of them triggered by short circuits..”. This is indeed an alarming notice for all of us to take heed.

Most of us live blissfully unaware that hidden above our heads, in our ceiling cavities, is a spider’s web of electrical cables taking live current to thing such as – the air-conditioners, (often leaking) hot water systems, lights, water pumps and in most homes, badly installed lightning conductors. All of which are often joined and connected using masking tape, unprotected and laid alongside leaking air-conditioners or water pipes. Should this not alarm you, then consider that the only protection from electrocution or fire to such premise is simply luck. This scenario is not by any means limited to low cost housings or even old homes. They are, unfortunately, also very common to properties built in affluent suburbs of any post code in Jakarta (and beyond). Many of us would be alarmed if we were to privy the shoddy standard that the electrical installations have been done within our homes.

In fact many properties do not even have an ELCB (Electrical Leakage Circuit Breaker) installed, which should be mandatory. ELCB or RCD simply cuts any power from entering the property if and when there is any fault or short circuit (such as electrocutions) in the premises. ELCB’s are cheap to purchase (less than Rp1million), but it cannot be installed without checking and repairing the premise from any faults or badly installed wiring. In so many occasions landlords have told us that they have installed the ELCB previously but “..the tenant keeps complaining because the electricity keeps cutting we took it off”..which, for all intent and purpose, is exactly what these devices are intended to do. For ELCB to cut out like that it is simply telling us that there is a faulty wiring “somewhere” in the premise.

Whose fault is it? We could perhaps finger point all those involved from architect, builders, owners, contractors and/or suppliers, however the fundamental issue is that there is simply no enforced standards or regulations for anyone to abide by. Hence the old adage of “buyer beware” is a mindset for all prospective buyers and renters alike. Unfortunately without the benefit of x-ray vision we are simply unable to see how good (or in most cases how bad) the wiring actually is.

How do we solve this? Since it is a buyer (or in most cases “renter”) beware market then it is up to the buyers/renters to ensure that the wiring in the premises have been installed correctly and safely. The best way to do this is to arrange for the property to undergo an Electrical Audit/ Inspection (albeit it is not the only area of the house needing inspection) conducted by qualified, experienced and independent building technicians. The Report should also be easy to read with plenty of illustrations and with an indication on estimated costs to rectify the situation. This report should form part of the negotiation process before finalising the lease or concluding a sale with an owner. The owner can either conduct the repairs as a condition to the lease (in which case you will need to arrange a 2nd audit/inspection to make sure the work has been carried out correctly) or you can negotiate a reduction in the rental/purchase cost to allow you to engage a professional company to rectify the problem.

With the ever growing concern towards Company’s HES matters in ensuring the health and wellbeing of employees are this issue should be dealt with some degree of diligence.

The Property Management Division of Santa Fe Relocations Services do conduct Electrical Audits complete with a written report in English sent via email within 5 working days from the day of audit/inspection. These reports are usually about 25 pages long (for electrical Audit Report) and very easy to understand with pictures to illustrate all the electrical faults.

Should you wish to have an Electrical Audit done to your property, please contact the author of this article Teddy S. Ragg on [email protected] or visit


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