A recent survey by the fire department revealed how most housing societies lack basic fire-fighting equipment and fire extinguishers. Many buildings don’t even have escape routes meant to be used in case of a fire or emergency.
In fact, housing societies tend to take fire accidents very lightly, at least till the time a fire breaks out in their own building or in the neighbourhood.
This indifferent attitude needs to change. Housing societies should organise mock drills to prepare residents to deal with a fire. As per the law, it is mandatory for every housing society, especially older buildings, to carry out a structural audit every five years. Many societies blatantly flout this rule. When it comes to repair work for the building, even affluent members are often reluctant to spend money. Due to this, repair work necessary to maintain structural safety of a building gets stalled.
To top it all, what’s the need to carry out ad-hoc, illegal structural alterations inside buildings or office premises? Unfortunately, such violations of BMC regulations and fire safety norms, often result in building collapses and fire breakouts.
Follow fire-safety norms, say no to illegal alterations
The fire extinguisher in the Cuffe Parade building was not working. The residents, however, claimed that they had recently purchased a new one for R15 lakh. The building’s management had not commissioned a fire-audit or submitted a report to the fire brigade for inspection and certification.
On the other hand, the collapse of a section of a floor inside Victoria House, a commercial building in Kamala Mills, due to some structural alterations carried out on the building’s ground floor, reminded us of the Laxmi Chhaya building collapse in Borivli.
This shows that we really haven’t learnt our lesson. It is important for both housing societies and offices to follow fire safety regulations and carry out repair work only after taking due permissions and conducting a thorough audit of the building.
—Viswanathan S Iyer
Push for periodic fire audits, check wires and cables
In India, especially in cities like Mumbai, scant importance is given to safety norms while constructing buildings. In fact, illegal constructions crop up regularly due to the nexus between builders and politicians. Owing to this, most buildings in the city are incapable of coping with natural calamities and accidents.
To prevent this, the government should order fresh audits to check how many buildings in Mumbai are equipped with functional fire extinguishers. It should also check that wires and cables are always in good condition. This could minimise the risk of short circuits.
—Ketan R Meher
Reader of the week
Residents play as important a role as the authorities
Affluent residents living in multi-storey buildings and towers spend huge amounts of money on decorating their homes. But the same people hesitate to spend on basic fire-fighting equipment for their buildings. They don’t understand that it’s an investment they are making for their own safety.
It is high time that both office complexes and housing societies realise the importance of adhering to basic safety measures.
To begin with, the housing societies should periodically conduct fire-fighting drills for the benefit of the residents. They must also ensure good maintenance of fire extinguishers and other fire-fighting equipment. With high-rises mushrooming all over the city, the BMC and fire brigade are finding it difficult to keep a tab on all of them. It is, therefore, important for Mumbaiites to extend full cooperation.