Thursday, February 18, 2010

City to fire up safety

ity to fire up safety

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Accidental fires are already being reported in the city although summer in all its intensity is still a few weeks away. The fire control room has been answering 10 to 15 SOS calls a day since early this month. The calls are usually half this number when the city is still in the grip of winter. As at least a couple of calls in as many days are for help to deal with fires in old buildings, the department of fire and emergency services is now insisting that they should take greater precautions against them.
There is growing concern as while there were 1,569 accidental fires in 2009, there have already been 237 calls this year to the fire control room. In 2007, 360 people died due to injuries suffered in fires in the city and 2,517 were injured so badly that they needed to be hospitalised. Of these fires only two per cent were homicidal, 16 per cent were suicidal and the rest were accidental in nature, says a Nimhans study.

As most old high-rise buildings have poor fire safety standards and the new don't do enough to maintain their fire safety equipment , the home guards and fire services department is sending advi- sory circulars to 500 build- ings in the city asking them to designate a common area where people can assemble in case of a fire or disaster.

The advisories are being sent to all high-rise build- ings, including malls, hospi- tals, schools, and colleges, says DGP, home guards and fire services Jija Madhavan Harisingh. The circular directs the buildings to install a board with a map drawing the evacuation route in case of a fire.

"In the absence of such guidance, there is usually a stampede resulting in more casualties and injuries like in the Uphaar fire tragedy.
We want people to behave like intelligent citizens, and think logically in times of disaster. These boards will guide them in how to protect themselves in emergen- cies," Ms Harisingh adds, pointing out that such a sys- tem is already in place in neighbouring Sri Lanka and in Europe. "We are all set to offer mock drills for evacu- ation in these high rise buildings," she says. While this rule is not yet mandato- ry for a no-objection certifi- cate from the department, it intends to make it part of its rule book soon. "While this plan is being implemented in Bengaluru, we will write to all the corporations and municipalities in all the other districts and taluks to follow suit," Ms Harisingh reveals. According to B.G.
Chengappa, director, depar- tment of fire and emergency services, one third of any building space should be open under the National Building Code. "This space can be used for people to assemble in case of fires and other emergencies," he says.


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