‘We have no powers to check high-rises frequently'

B.G. Chengappa

B.G. Chengappa  

Staff Reporter

BANGALORE: Tuesday's fire at the Carlton Towers has once again brought into focus safety in high-rise buildings and the responsibilities of the owners/occupants concerned. Speaking to The Hindu, B.G. Chengappa, Director, Karnataka Fire and Emergency Services, detailed these issues:

What are the regulations related to high-rise buildings?

All buildings with ground plus four floors are defined as high-rise buildings and are governed by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike's Building Byelaw 2003 and the National Building Code. These buildings have to conform to fire safety norms such as having fire-fighting equipment, providing adequate space for movement of fire engines, and stairs for movement of people.

How are the Fire Services involved in the process?

Builders should get a no-objection certificate (NOC) from us. We specify that the building code be followed, like the width of the road abutting the buildings, entrance width, height clearance, car parking and staircase, escape route, safety plan and training. We don't have the powers to undertake frequent inspections of fire safety measures.

What about the Carlton Towers?

We gave the clearance in 1999. The owner has sold it room-wise and floor-wise. The [present] owners have the collective responsibility of adhering to the safety norms.

What went wrong?

A short circuit on the first floor burnt the cables in the service duct, which generated the smoke. An opening, left unsealed on the top floors led to the smoke spreading, causing panic. This is a common violation in many high-rises. The smoke detectors and wet raisers failed to work. On some floors, the passage connecting the two staircases on either sides of the building was blocked.

What problems did you face?

We had a hard time entering the building from the two gates. Advertisement hoardings and minor construction on the premises hindered the movement of fire engines. We could not use the turntable ladders to evacuate people as the fire engines carrying them were stuck in traffic. Our men were injured by the glass façade being broken by those in the building.

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