Fire safety always remains on the backburner, rues expert

Fire safety and the need to take precautions enter public debate only whenever there is an accident.

Otherwise they remain on the backburner.

The horrendous fire that claimed six lives here on Monday has underscored the need to have fire safety measures in place in all buildings, especially industries.

B.K. Hampagol, retired Deputy Director (Technical), Department of Fire and Emergency Services, said that fire safety has still not been made compulsory in the State for all buildings.

High rises

A gazette notification issued by the government in September 1971 recommended that all commercial and industrial structures over 50 feet high have safety measures in place, and specified some guidelines.

“Fire safety is essential for these high rises as per the zonal regulations and National Building Code. But it is not so for structures less than 50 feet in height.”

Mr. Hampagol said that following the fire at Carlton Towers that claimed nine lives in February 2010, the High Court of Karnataka directed the government to undertake a fire safety audit of all the high rises in the city.

“Fire safety has still not been made compulsory. All industries are fire-prone and it makes good sense to take precautions against such accidents,” he said.

Expertise needed

Mr. Hampagol said that all industries come under the purview of the Directorate of Factories and Boilers.

“The officials of this department may not have professional knowledge about fire safety. They feel that industries can be safe just by keeping some red fire extinguishers.

“However, only a fire safety expert can recommend the kind of extinguisher best suited for a particular industry,” he said.

‘Industries can spend’

He said that all industries — small, micro, medium and large — can approach the Fire and Emergency Services Department and seek help to put in place fire safety measures. “Industries that have huge turnovers can spend a little to insulate themselves against such accidents,” he added. Stating that the department had written several times to the government urging it to make fire safety compulsory for industries and high rises, Mr. Hampagol said that the department could be given powers to inspect buildings, conduct a proper audit and issue NOC (no objection certificate).

“The department does not have powers to take up inspections voluntarily. If the department is empowered, then such accidents can be prevented,” he added.

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