City schools unprepared for fire disasters | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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City schools unprepared for fire disasters

No emergency exits, few fire alarms, rare drills and no fire insurance: Mumbai’s schools are blatantly violating fire safety norms and putting the lives of thousands of children at risk, a survey conducted in August-September has found. Bhavya Dore reports.

mumbai Updated: Oct 29, 2012 02:11 IST
Bhavya Dore

No emergency exits, few fire alarms, rare drills and no fire insurance: Mumbai’s schools are blatantly violating fire safety norms and putting the lives of thousands of children at risk, a survey conducted in August-September has found.

The survey, which covered 300 city schools — 100 municipal, 100 unaided private and 100 aided, revealed widespread violations of safety precautions. While only 6% of the schools surveyed had fire alarms, not a single school had emergency exits. Only 4% had conducted training programmes for teachers on calamities and 4% had held fire-fighting training for students and staff, said the survey.

“Safety matters are not given priority in any of the schools,” said Arundhati Chavan, president of non-profit group Parent-Teacher Association United Forum (PTAUF), which conducted the survey.

About 75% of the schools said they had a fire extinguisher, but only 7% had conducted drills, and none had bought insurance against fire disasters. Further, only 4.3% had displayed the names and numbers of students at prominent places in case of an emergency.

“Anything can happen any time. But schools think that they are safe by just installing a fire extinguisher. They are not worried about other issues like untrained teachers, narrow staircases and cramped classrooms. It is high time the education and fire department conducted audits of schools and took precautions,” said Chavan.

A Supreme Court order had recommended various fire safety measures in 2004 after a fire in a Tamil Nadu school claimed the lives of 94 children.

The forum is planning to send its findings to the education department and the fire department next week.

After the Mantralaya fire in July, education minister Rajendra Darda had announced a fire audit of city schools and had promised to take action on the matter.

“I do not know about any government order so far,” said a senior education department official. “But we will try and enforce the various rules in place.”

Schools said there was no clarity on norms. “By and large, we don't know what to do. We find out when a calamity occurs,” said Rekha Vijayakar, director of Guru Harkrishan High School in Santacruz.

“What are the norms schools have to follow? There are many things the departments don't tell us. We want to know these things so that we can keep our institutions safe.”