Wednesday, January 28, 2009

When SAFETY comes second

When SAFETY comes second
A day after tragedy was averted at The Forum mall, Fire Force officials say sprinklers were removed from the food court level after obtaining occupancy certificate. Reason: interior decoration
Vinay Madhav | TNN

Bangalore: Monday’s fire at The Forum mall has exposed some lastminute interior alterations that could have had dangerous consequences. Fire Force officials said sprinklers, that were fixed on the ceiling of the food court level, were removed or blocked during interior decoration.
“Though nothing serious happened due to the fire on Monday, it’s still a matter of concern,’’ an official said. Before issuing occupancy certificate, the fire department had issued a ‘no-objection certificate’ for the mall. “At that time, sprinklers were present on all floors. Even now, they exist in the cinema halls and some other places. Elsewhere, they’ve either been removed or sealed while doing interiors for various shops,” he explained.
Sprinklers are attached to pipes running through ceilings. They draw water from both the overhead tank and underground sump. This way, continuous supply is ensured, which is important during an emergency.
What is a sprinkler?
The sprinkler consists of a bulb filled with a liquid. When room temperature crosses 60 degrees Celsius, the liquid expands and bulb breaks. Water is sprinkled all around to extinguish the fire.
Deviations are not uncommon
What happens when a commercial building deviates from the original plan, posing a safety threat? Fire and emergency services director B G Chengappa said his force can do little in such cases, as it’s not the enforcing agency. As per rules, owners have to obtain an NoC twice. First, when they get the plan approved from BBMP, and the second when construction is complete and they apply for occupancy certificate.
“At the second stage, we can reject the application and submit a report to BBMP. This was done in the case of Bangalore Central mall as the promoters had added an extra floor to the original plan. We sent reminders to the BBMP, but the building continues to be operational. There are several instances where the plan is changed after obtaining occupancy certificates. Shops or restaurants come up in parking areas.
Building safety
The problem dates back to much before the mall culture hit Bangalore. The Public Utility Building and Visveshwaraya Towers had no firesafety plans. While they were built in the 1970s, the fire force was authorized to check their safety measures only in 1983.
“There were no rules and regulations followed for such buildings. But we fought to ensure safety measures were adopted. An extra staircase was added in both buildings, to act as an escape route during fire or other emergencies. Fire-fighting measures have also been upgraded. The PUB has five fire personnel on deputation to keep track of minor incidents within the building,’’ Chengappa said.
Usual buzz missing
Though there were quite a few visitors at The Forum on Tuesday, the buzz usually witnessed here was missing. Authorities said footfall was normal, even though the food court ‘Transit’ is closed for renovation. Shops did business as usual. Mall manager Mohammed Ali said the personnel worked overnight to ensure shops opened on time. TNN


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