Many multi-storeyed buildings in Coimbatore, both in the residential and commercial category, followed the fire safety norms only as a formality to obtain fire licence with only a few adhering to the norms consciously with safety in mind, according to Divisional Fire Officer N. Subramanian.

Speaking to The Hindu, he said that as per the fire safety standards issued in 1992, all buildings above 15 metres must have automatic sprinkler systems and two portable fire extinguishers for every 60 feet.

Overhead tanks

All buildings must have two staircases, overhead tanks and both diesel and electric pumpsets besides clear signs pointing to the exits.

Even the residential buildings must have a separate fire lift to be used only during fire emergencies. Buildings above 60 metres must have provision for a helipad for evacuating those trapped during a fire emergency.

Further, he said that during an emergency in high rise buildings, fire spreads mostly through the ducts and wiring, all of which must be protected. The air conditioners must be reinforced with fire. Public address systems must be installed in all high rise residential and commercial buildings

“Textile shops, which are plenty in number in Coimbatore, are among the most dangerous if a fire were to break out as the smoke from nylon and silk would completely engulf the city. But there are violations in most of these shops in Coimbatore and we have issued notices to many shops,” said Mr. Subramanian.

Many of these shops store the boxes near the fire exits, which poses a double threat as they tend to catch fire easily and block the people from escaping during an emergency.

Also, very few establishments conduct fire safety and evacuation drills with any frequency. Such exercises could save lives during an emergency, he adds

The Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services has classified buildings into nine categories: residential, educational, institutional, assembly, business, mercantile, industrial, storage and hazardous.

In Coimbatore, the maximum number of buildings fall under business, with residential and institutional buildings coming next.

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