TNFRS report pinpoints several violations in T. Nagar

Over 100 buildings in the busy T. Nagar shopping area, which were surveyed by the Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services, do not adhere to the fire safety norms, according to a report submitted by the TNFRS to Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) recently.

Not a single building conforms to all fire safety requirements, according to the report. The list of shops includes many well-known sari, readymade and jewellery showrooms.

The monitoring committee appointed by the Madras High Court to study building violations in commercial establishments had, in November, asked the TNFRS for a copy of the report on fire safety survey carried out in T.Nagar.

In response, the TNFRS sent a detailed report, covering not just buildings that were locked and sealed by the CMDA and Chennai Corporation, but also several other buildings on Usman Road and Ranganathan Street that it had surveyed independently.

The report, which presents the data in a tabulated format, indicates the name of the shop, the site address, profile of the building in terms of number of floors/storeys, requirements as per the National Building Code of India 2005 and available fire fighting equipment. The TNFRS has also made its observations about each of these buildings.

Lacking in basics

Several buildings do not have adequate setback area. “We need at least 7 metres around a building as set back area, for a fire tender to be parked and a ladder to be placed against a wall,” said an official. The lack of adequate fire extinguishers, sprinklers and fire exits are among the other points made in the report. The report also refers to the narrow and congested roads, heavy traffic in the area, building violations, stocking of LPG cylinders on the top floors of the buildings where the employees stay in some cases, lack of pavement space along the roads and absence of water storage exclusively for fire fighting.

“The actual fire maybe small, but it might have a catastrophic effect given the absence of even basic fire safety requirements in most cases,” according to an official of TNFRS.

The problem, according to TNFRS sources, is that most of these buildings were just “ground plus one” structures at the beginning. Later, they constructed several floors on top illegally, without adequate space around the building. “That poses a huge risk for fire safety, as the space available around a building should correspond to its height for our personnel to work standing on ladders during an emergency,” he added.

On an average week day, the locality attracts over two to three lakh customers. Around festivals, the number of shoppers visiting the area goes well up to 10 lakh. There has been additional emphasis on fire safety in the locality, following the fire accident at Saravana Stores in Ranganathan Street in September 2008, which claimed the lives of two persons.

Soon after, the TNFRS conducted an extensive survey of buildings in the area. According to TNFRS sources, officials of the Department visited the stores regularly after that, updating the data.

“In fact, we shared the findings with each of the shopkeepers and told them which areas they lacked in. The shopkeepers also agreed to adequately equip their buildings in writing. However, no one seems to have done anything, going by our recent findings,” the official said.

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Meera SrinivasanJune 28, 2012