Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Key points in City in dire need of fire safety steps

Key points in City in dire need of fire safety steps
By Monica Jha, DH News Service, Bangalore:
At the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation station, one of the busiest in the country not a single fire extinguisher is there in the entire area.

How fire-safe are crowded public places in the City? In the wake of the recent Public Utility Building blaze, Deccan Herald went around the BMTC and Kempe Gowda bus stations as well as the City Railway Station to get a first-hand idea but came away with some alarming findings.

At the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation station, one of the busiest in the country, BMTC’s Chief Traffic Manager Dastagir Sharief said more than 7 lakh people commute from the station every day.

On an average, one bus arrives or departs from the station every 20 seconds. But not a single fire extinguisher is seen in the entire area.

Asked about this, Nagaraj KBS, Assistant Traffic Manager, glossed over the issue, saying, “The BMTC head office at Shantinagar is responsible for such arrangements.”

Though this reporter was referred to one Ambareesh, who apparently is in-charge of Security and Vigilance in BMTC, he had little to offer by way of information.

Mr Sharief said the corporation had taken fire safety measures after a crude bomb was found on the station premises a year ago. “Since that incident (bomb), we’ve been taking all possible measures. We’ve 12 fire extinguishers but you may not find them outside as they’ve been kept in a room. If we place them outside, they won’t last long.”

RPF has no role

It was no different at the City Railway Station, which has at least a lakh people moving through it every day, but not a single fire extinguisher. Railway Protection Force (RPF) is in-charge of fire-safety here, the Deputy Station Manager said.

But RPF Duty Officer J Mokashi said “RPF doesn’t take care of fire safety any more. We used to look after fire safety earlier. But now this matter does not part of our brief.”

No idea

The security personnel on-duty at the station entrance D C Sharma had no idea about such arrangements, either. But Nazeer Ahmed, a porter at the station for 40 years now, said he had never seen a fire extinguisher on the platforms. Nor have any of the shopkeepers at IRCTC stalls at the entrance.

At Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation’s Kempegowda terminus, Security Officer Vasanth Kumar said 56 fire extinguishers are ‘available’ at the station.

However, this reporter could see only three, each of 5 kg capacity. Two of these, kept in Comprehensive Trauma Centre, were not refilled though the refill date expired this March. “We refill the cylinders every year,” Mr Kumar had said.

“What’s the point in keeping fire extinguishers where the public can’t see and use them?” asked Sudhakara M, a regular RTC passenger.

IG of Police and Additional Director of Fire and Emergency Services C Chandrashekhar said it was the responsibility of the individual departments/ organisations concerned to take fire safety measures. We recommend some precautionary measures only in the case of high-rise buildings.”


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