Bengaluru

Fire safety norms to be made mandatory for eateries

Proposals under review, amendments to bylaws expected within a month: BBMP Commissioner

The city’s eateries may finally find themselves being mandated to follow fire safety guidelines, if promises of bureaucrats are kept.

Earlier this year, a fire broke out at a ground-floor bar and restaurant at Kalasipalya. When the smoke cleared, five people were found dead, and the Fire Department officials questioned why they didn’t have control over fire-hazard establishments of all sizes.

Old Act

Working with the over five-decade-old Karnataka Fire Force Act, 1964, the Fire Department is now undertaking a two-pronged approach to bring not just high-rises (15 m and above), that require a No Objection Certificate from the department, but other potential fire-hazard establishments under its ambit. This particularly includes eateries that have gas cylinders and store other inflammable items that make them potential fire spots.

Among the first steps is to bring the commissioners of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), which gives out trade licences to eateries; Excise Department, which has jurisdiction over establishments serving liquor; and the Fire Department together for discussions. “We want to hold a meeting in the coming week, so that fire safety precautions can be inculcated in the licenses...Adhering to these conditions will make it possible to have some accountability during surprise inspections or checks,” said Sunil Agarwal, Additional Director General of Police (Fire and Emergency Services).

Not the first time

This is not the first time the Fire Department is attempting to enforce fire norms in the BBMP bylaws.

Immediately following the Kamala Mills fire and the Kalasipalya fire, the department had written to the BBMP in May requesting the inclusion of basic fire safety measures in their bylaws. A detailed list of fire precautions for over 20 types of buildings was prepared.

N. Manjunath Prasad, BBMP Commissioner, said the proposals were under review, and amendments to the bylaws were expected within a month.

“While many eateries are following fire safety guidelines, these amendments will make the guidelines more stringent. If eateries have not followed these precautions, we can suspend their licenses. Moreover, fire safety measures adopted can be reviewed annually when the licenses come up for renewal,” he said.

Mumbai model

This is however a small step towards a larger goal of amending the Karnataka Fire Force Act to more contemporary settings.

The State is looking at Mumbai, where the Maharashtra Fire Prevention & Life Safety Measure Act, 2006, sets in place stringent measures for fire safety. Of particular interest is the clause that makes it mandatory for builders or owners of high-rise buildings to self-audit and report their fire safety equipment every six months, while fire equipment can be installed only by accredited licence holders with stringent eligibility criteria.

Criteria for fire equipment

Currently, there is no set criteria in place for fire equipment which could lead to sale of sub-standard products.

Also, the Fire Department, which has given NOCs to around 3,500 high-rises, is struggling to meet the mandate of inspecting high-rises every two years.

“But, by making high-rise owners give declarations, we can conduct spot checks and random inspections for a few units. Builders or owners will be held accountable on the basis of their declaration. This will serve as a warning to others,” said Mr. Agarwal.

However, an amendment is a long drawn out process, he admits. “We’ll have to start within the department and ensure the proposals are chalked out soon,” he says.

Outposts

Bylaws are not the only thing the Fire Department hopes to borrow from Mumbai.

The narrow lanes and congested localities of Mumbai forced the department there to innovate on fire stations, which need vast tracks of land which the densely-populated city doesn’t have. Much like the Police Department has small outposts to supplement parent police stations, the Fire Department has outposts who become first attenders in the case of emergencies.

In Bengaluru, there are nearly 20 fire stations, and large parts of the city are not effectively covered.

Sunil Agarwal, Additional Director General of Police (Fire and Emergency Services), said that apart from the practicality of having smaller stations, it would expedite the process of staffing these stations. As persons would be deputed from the parent fire stations, there will no need for lengthy procedures of budgeting and recruitments.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 12:15:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/fire-safety-norms-to-be-made-mandatory-for-eateries/article24958032.ece

Next Story