G. Krishnakumar, K.S. Sudhi

Lack of mechanism in schools

KOCHI: Alarmed by the lack of fire safety mechanisms in schools, the Government has asked the Education Department to come out with a status report on the issue.

The decision comes in the wake of a report in The Hindu , "Schools vulnerable to fire accident," published on March 2.

Responding to the story, Minister for Education M.A. Baby said on Friday that he had directed the top officials of his department to file a detailed report. "The Government has taken serious note of the situation. We will take all necessary steps to ensure adequate fire safety mechanism in all schools," he said.

The Minister said that the Education Department had been asked to study all existing rules and regulations regarding fire safety mechanism in schools. "We will also probe whether there is any lapse in implementation of these guidelines. The status report will provide a detailed analysis of the existing fire safety system in educational institutions," he said. Based on the status report, the Government would initiate stringent measures for ensuring the safety of students in thousands of schools across the State.

No system

The report has mentioned that schools do not have basic fire-fighting equipment such as portable fire extinguishers and sand buckets. The laboratories also function without any safety system. Many schools are not even properly ventilated. Several multi-storey buildings have only one exit. Only a few had conducted mock drills to face emergency situations. Senior fire officials admit that there is no effective system to check if the schools are safe or have the required fire-fighting system. Fire and Rescue Services officials are also not in a position to confirm if schools have left sufficient setback area on their premises to ensure that fire tenders can reach the compound in case of any accident. They also point out that schools should also obtain no-objection certificates from the Fire and Rescue Services.