Fire service ill-equipped to handle major accident: CAG

Absence of fire-safety equipment in schools, hospitals and cinema halls, non-compliance of fire safety rules while setting up industries and non-adherence of fire safety rules during issuance of cracker licence are some of the glaring deficiencies pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India in its audit report for 2017- 18.

The CAG report, which was tabled in the Legislative Assembly on Monday, said there were 430 government and 301 private schools in the Union Territory.

While the private schools had obtained non objection certificate from the Fire Service Department (FSD) for accreditation, the government schools had failed to adhere to the safety norms.

Of the 349 government schools surveyed, only nine schools had installed hose reels and had fire extinguishers with validity period. The validity period of fire extinguishers installed in the remaining schools had expired long back.

None of the public health centres, including eight general hospitals, had provided fire safety devices such as fire extinguisher, hose reel covering entire floor area and electric fire alarm system. The hospitals are functioning without proper fire safety measures in place, jeopardising the safety of doctors, patients and visitors.

It also pointed out deficiency in providing fire control mechanism in cinema halls, the audit report pointed out.

The National Disaster Management Authority had stipulated preparation of a comprehensive data, population, land use, type of buildings, accessibility, health care system and industrial locations. The FSD had, however, failed to gather details of high rise buildings, hazardous industries and high risk area.

Pointing out that U.T. had witnessed 1065 fire accidents during 2013-18, the audit expressed dismay over the government’s failure to enact the Fire Force Act. In the absence of such a legislation, there was no legal framework enabling the fire force to take control of the area of fire accident to prevent or limit the damage to life and property.

"Thus in the event of an accident, fire service personnel are handicapped to exercise powers as given in the Fire Act of neighbouring States to control crowd, access water sources, remove obstructions and people,” the report pointed out.

Painting a grim look at the operational preparedness of the department, the report revealed that all the 18 fire engines/tenders available in U.T. were more than 10 years old and were in use for a period ranging from 12 to 26 years. They also had leakage problem, poor tyres and major repairs.

In Puducherry region, the report said, nine fire stations which which have to cater to a population of 9. 50 lakh were provided with nine water/feeder tenders against the requirement of 19. There is also lack of sufficient foam tenders and communication equipment.

“The shortfall in fire fighting equipment and also the poor condition of the existing fire fighting equipment and also the poor condition of the existing machinery would handicap the department in combating any major fire disaster,” the report said.

The non-adherence to safety regulations and apathy of the administration to facilitate compliance leaves the population of U.T. vulnerable to destruction caused by fire accidents, the report charged.

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Printable version | May 27, 2020 8:08:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/fire-service-ill-equipped-to-handle-major-accident-cag/article31209008.ece

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