If the Fire Advisory Council standards are strictly applied, Chennai will find itself drastically short of the number of fire stations it requires. At present, the city has only 29 fire stations as against about 100 it needs.
Between Thiruvanmiyur and Thirukazhukundram there is no fire station to take care of the 50 km stretch. Even Mammallapuram does not have one. The recently opened station at Siruseri on the Old Mamallapuram Road is focussed on industrial fire safety.
The resorts and entertainment centre on the East Coast Road have to depend more on the Thiruvanmiyur Station. Annanagar, despite developing as a city within city, does not have a station of its own.
“More than population and area coverage, the critical parameter to evaluate the adequacy of fire stations would be the response time.” explained G.B Menon, retired Fire Adviser, Government of India.
Chennai does not fare well under this criterion too.
The Fire Advisory Council has recommended that the response time, the time taken for the fire fighting vehicle to reach the accident spot during peak hour traffic, should be less than 300 seconds or five minutes.
Given the traffic congestion and reduced road widths, many parts of the city will never receive critical attention in time.
For example, recent traffic studies done by the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority shows that to navigate the 2.8 km stretch of G.N.Chetty Road takes about 615 sec during peak time and similarly travel through 1.2 km on Venkatnarayana Road takes about 559 seconds. Buildings on these roads are beyond the quick reach of fire rescue vehicles.
“Most of existing fire station standards were farmed three decades ago and are outdated. Even by these outdated standards more than 75 per cent of urban places in India will fall short in terms of fire equipments and personnel,' Mr.Menon points out.
The Fire Advisory Council recommends that dry runs must be conducted during rush hour and the time taken from the existing fire stations to places that need fire cover should be plotted on the map and the locations of the stations evaluated.
Such an exercise will demonstrate that many key areas in Chennai need more number and better dispersal of fire stations to deliver better services within the critical time.
“The risk and gap analysis for Chennai city is underway and it would help us evaluate better. We may need to adopt long and short term plans. The long term plan would be to increase the number of stations and the short term one would be to strengthen the existing stations,” responded R.Nataraj, Director, Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services.
“In order to negotiate the traffic and road width issues and reach to the accident spots quickly, we are now going for small-sized fire vehicles that can manoeuvre better. In the ongoing budget session, the government has sanctioned a new fire station for T.Nagar” he added.
“Chennai has to have a well prepared plan for disaster management. Fire safety is a priority and no cost cutting should be considered,” Mr.Nataraj emphasised.