The tragic factory fire, which killed six workers at a furniture unit here on Monday, is another indicator of all that’s wrong with our attitude towards public fire safety, says Uday Vijayan, who lost his 23-year-old son at the horrific fire at Carlton Towers three years ago. “It’s very unfortunate,” says the 55-year-old management executive who started Beyond Carlton, an advocacy group focussed on fire safety issues.
“Indians simply don’t believe an accident could happen to us. Even after it happens we seem to move on. Whether it’s an employer, employee or a general citizen, we simply don’t learn enough,” he says. He and others in the group have been working with industry bodies to sensitise them of employer liability in the case of such accidents.
“Employers have to realise, especially small and medium ones like this factory, that they have a responsibility towards their employees. And so they cannot afford to be lax on matters of safety,” Mr. Vijayan says.
This is particularly tricky in multi-tenanted properties, as Carlton Towers is, where the ownership is fragmented. “It’s a huge challenge then… some are bothered, some aren’t. We’ve often found owners even dismantling alarms and sprinklers randomly,” he recalls.
Catch ’em young
As part of their work with schools to instil early on among students a sense of public safety and awareness, Mr. Vijayan recalls a session that they conducted among pre-schoolers in a school.
She had all the answers…
“What caught my attention was the fact that one young girl seemed to know all the answers.
She knew, for instance, how to remain attentive, what to do when there’s smoke, how to react if you see your room fill with smoke, things that I didn’t know till Carlton happened to us,” he says.
Later, when he asked around, he discovered that the child had just moved here from Singapore, where she had been taught the drills in detail.
“Why can’t we do this in our schools? With our children, and in our public places? How can we get these mindsets to change so awareness just seeps in across our society?” he says.