Commercial buildings in the city violating fire safety norms are now installing inbuilt systems, writes V.S. PALANIAPPAN

IN any urban locality with commercial activity, violation of building rules, especially fire safety norms, is the order of the day. There has been growth of unregulated commercial structures across the city over the years. A number of commercial buildings were not qualified to get a no-objection certificate or a fire department licence for their buildings as they were constructed in violation of the National Building Code. Norms relating to structures, which are 50-ft and above i.e., ground floor plus four floors, should have been designed in a "rescue-friendly." The buildings should have smoke detectors, adequate exit ways and fire sensors, underground storage facility for 1.5 lakh litres of water and overhead storage of 20,000 litres besides fire extinguishers. As per the code, the building should be designed in such a way that evacuation of the people inside the building should be possible within two-and-a-half minutes with adequate exit ways without giving room for stampede that would result in deaths, said Deputy Director of Fire and Rescue Services, Western Region, R. Balsamy.

While it was too late for many of the buildings to amend their structures to make them comply with the norms such as "set back space" on all the four sides of the building for the fire tenders to go around, certain alterations such as creation of more exit ways were possible besides bringing in the fire safety and fire fighting gadgets. After a series of awareness and sensitisation programmes, the owners of about 40 buildings had displayed a culture of compliance by voluntarily going in for these inbuilt fire safety measures, said S. Ganapathy, Divisional Fire and Rescue Services Officer for Coimbatore and the Nilgiris.

The culture of compliance was only in respect of gadgets and not with regard to structural changes. Though the objective was not to make these buildings qualify for a licence, it was only aimed at bringing in systems that could help saving lives, the officials said.

The fire and rescue services department would make an earnest attempt to make more buildings bring in fire safety measures.