How High-Rise Fires Can Be Avoided by Ram Devagiri Executive Director & Head of Facilities Management Services Knight Frank India
There is a fire incident in a high-rise building in Mumbai every alternative day. This information has emerged barely a fortnight after we witnessed yet another case of a man-made disaster when the fire broke out in a high-rise building in Mumbai in which four people were killed. Isn’t there a way to put a stop to such avoidable fire incidents? Surely there is. With adequate checks and balances, such accidents can be averted.
The recent fire accident in the high-rise in Parel is not an isolated case and occurred close to the heels of a string of fire accidents in Mumbai. Although details of a thorough root cause analysis of this accident are still awaited, the latest reports say that the fire started due to “defective electric circuit”. It is likely that the staircase of the building was quickly engulfed in smoke and cranes were eventually deployed to evacuate many residents who were trapped on the higher floors. Between 2008 and June 2018, there were a total of 48,434 fire incidents in the Maximum city, out of which 1,568 were in high-rise buildings. These figures clearly show that maintaining adequate fire safety standards is a non-negotiable must. Again, an official root cause analysis of the latest incident is awaited, yet there are some glaring points in this case that are hard to miss. The refuge floor, which is mandatorily kept vacant for the society members to converge in the event of a fire, was sold as a flat. Building electric duct was not sealed at floor level. There were clear violations of safety norms such as the absence of Occupancy Certificate issued by the Mumbai Fire department and so on.
In case you are on a lookout for an apartment in the city, here is a mandatory checklist of things that you should check for:
• All such ducts/shafts should be properly sealed so that the spread of fire can be stopped at all floor levels.
• Fire hydrants, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, fire pumps etc should be periodically checked as per the Planned Preventive Maintenance schedule.
• Fire suppression system should be operated regularly as per the defined frequency.
• Residents should have the knowledge about emergency exits, fire extinguishers and the emergency response team.
• Residents should actively participate in emergency preparedness and response mock drill.
• There should be a mechanism so that safety concerns/issues/suggestions can be raised to the Resident Manager.
Further, there is a number of proactive measures that communities need to take to keep their members safe. Check for the following aspects in your existing establishment:
• All members should be educated about emergency preparedness and response.
• All members of the emergency response team should clearly know their roles and responsibilities.
• All emergency exits should be free from storage and should be easily accessible.
• Fire audits should be conducted by third-party & compliance.
• Building owners should implement interim mitigation measures. They should also get professional advice for any remedial work.
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