Bawana Fire: Things To Know About Building Fire Safety
The nation was saddened as it witnessed two major fire accidents in a period of less than a month - one at a rooftop restaurant in Mumbai's Kamala Mills on December 29, 2017 and the recent fire tragedy in the Bawana industrial area of north Delhi which claimed 17 lives and injured many others. The fire broke out on January 20, 2018 inside an illegally used firecracker storage unit. In 2015, fire accidents led to 17,700 deaths out of the reported 18,450 cases in India, according to data by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
When a fire disaster strikes, it not only exposes the vulnerability, of human life and property to the forces of nature, but also questions the effectiveness of the fire safety norms in the country. The situation is scary especially in case of high-rises where the height of the building hinders the evacuation process. The National Building Code of (NBC) India lays down various guidelines that also cover the essential fire safety requirements during building construction. These norms, more often than not, are also violated by building owners.
MakaanIQ brings more insights on building fire safety norms in India and the important things you should know:
The deaths caused by fire are categorised by NCRB into four groups viz. Electric Short Circuit, Fireworks, Gas Cylinder/Stove Burst and any other cause. Below are some facts that reveals how ill-equipped buildings are when it comes to fire fighting:
- Absence of a proper fire-fighting arrangement inside the building can easily turn the structure into a death trap.
- The power supply distribution and meter panels in most high-rise structures in India are installed in the lowest floors like the basement which is dangerous.
- In several non-residential buildings, such as some restaurants in Mumbai which are mostly old structures refurbished to modern style, have overloaded electrical systems. This leads to short circuits in the air conditioning or the lighting systems, which becomes the major trigger factor for fires. It is further catalysed by faulty electrical wiring or hanging electric wires.
- Deaths during fire accidents are mostly caused due to asphyxiation which highlights the fact that there is a lack of open spaces or escape routes in the building. In most case, these spaces are blocked, and the victims fail to make their way to safety.
Things to keep in mind
Fire safety not only starts from the construction stage but also involves organised human response to tackle the impact of the blaze.
- The National Building Code of (NBC) India makes it mandatory for all non-high-rise buildings to have fire prevention installations. They include hose reels, wet riser, an automatic sprinkler system, fire alarm system and water tanks on the terrace and below the ground.
- There should be sufficient open space around residential buildings to facilitate easy movement and operations of Fire Service vehicles. The National Building Code (NBC) specifies the number, size and location of exits.
- On the part of a building owner, it is important to properly maintain the staircases, stairwells and corridors, and keep them ventilated. Terraces are vital in case of high-rises so that people can assemble safely. Signages to locate clear pathways to exit doors is essential.
- Installation of automatic fire alarm systems or smoke detection systems are vital in identifying break out of a fire and containing it on time. Likewise, smoke suppression systems and fire extinguishers are must-haves for any commercial building.
- Regular fire drills and fire safety audits organised by the city's fire department are some compulsory preparations to be done for handling emergency evacuations better. This should be included, along with occupant training and safe work practices, under the standard operating procedures and must be done by an authorised fire safety officer.
- Combustibility of construction materials is a major handicap for buildings in India. Adding fuel to the fire is a closed room of concrete with no windows and a sturdy door which creates a fire compartment. Storage of hazardous or inflammable materials must be done with caution. Wise choice of flame-retardant materials for interiors can saves many lives.
- Have multiple copies of the building plan handy so that the rescue team knows clearly the way to reach the spot.
- Finally, request the fire department in your area to assess the level of safety in your building.