Better to park on higher floors than in the basement

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Hazards and risks of basement parking.

Visitors to several popular shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur could choose to park their vehicles on the upper floors or in the basement. Some of these malls include Berjaya Times Square, Sunway Putra Mall, and Mid Valley Megamall with The Gardens Mall adjoined.

Most drivers choose to park in the basement which usually has several floors and ample parking, rather than driving up many floors with fewer parking lots.

However, I am not deterred by the slight inconvenience and have always opted to park on the upper floors because I am aware of the hazards and risks of basement parking.

Lest we forget, basements are below ground, and rainwater that flows in must be pumped out. But what happens if the pumps were to fail or in a power blackout? Obviously, the basement would be flooded, and your car could be submerged.

This applies to underpasses such as those at the T-junction of Jalan Tun Razak with Jalan Bukit Bintang and at Jalan Chan Sow Lin below the bridge of the LRT track, which had been flooded several times as the pump installed here was often unreliable.

Inside the enclosed basement, the ventilation system must be efficient to suck out stale and hot air, particularly exhaust fumes, for people to breathe safely. On the upper floors, this is a non-issue as most of the walls are open, allowing a free flow of air and entry of sunlight.

Decades ago, I had a nasty experience when trying to drive out of Sungei Wang Plaza but was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic in the basement after the parking boom gate went faulty. Had I known earlier, I would have left the car in the parking lot and made my exit later.

But I was already stuck inside my car together with family members. After some time, the engine overheated while idling because the air inside the basement became hot. I had to switch off the air-conditioner and roll down the windows, but the heat of the outside air was unbearable.

Last Wednesday morning, a fire broke out at a Tenaga Nasional Berhad sub-station in Mid Valley Megamall. Those stuck in the underground parking lots were unable to move as the parking boom gate has stopped working, and unable to reverse because of the cars behind them.

Terrifyingly, in areas where there were no lights from cars and handphones, the basement was in total darkness as power was suddenly cut off.

Had I gone to Mid Valley Megamall, I would have parked on one of the upper floors at The Gardens Mall and would not go through the harrowing experience of trying to exit from the basement after fire broke out at the sub-station.

The views expressed here are strictly those of YS Chan from Kuala Lumpur.