Concerned about the safety of students, the state school education department has told schools and junior colleges to install fire-fighting equipment as soon as possible.
The order followed a recent inspection by the fire officials which showed that many schools had not taken the requisite safety measures.
As per a Supreme Court order issued in 2004, it is mandatory for all schools to take up fire-safety measures such as installing extinguishers, smoke alarms, sprinklers, adequate fire exits and evacuation training for staff and students.
However, the fire officials said that several of the new schools have not complied with the norms. “New schools in confined skyscrapers, having air-conditioned classrooms and narrow staircases have a huge fire load,” said PS Rahangdale, deputy chief fire officer. “Comparatively, older schools are better equipped as they have spacious lobbies and wide staircases.”
Rahangdale said they have asked schools to install fire extinguishers, refill and maintain them regularly. They should also train their security personnel in using the extinguishers in case of emergency.
To ensure that schools comply with the norms, BB Chavan, deputy director of education, Mumbai region, said the department is collecting information on fire-fighting equipment in schools.
“We have asked schools to give information on the kind of apparatus available with them, number of fire extinguishers and their condition,” said Chavan.
Schools said they already have fire-fighting equipment. “We have all the required equipment and we conduct mock drills regularly,” said Seema Sablok, principal of SM Shetty School, Powai.
However, activists said many city schools have defunct fire extinguishers.
“The condition in government schools is worse than private ones. Fire extinguishers are not maintained,” said Chetan Pednekar, member of Maharashtra Navnirman Vidyarthi Sena (MNVS). “Such instructions were the need of the hour.”
“We had found that fire audits had not been conducted in schools for the last two years. Also, the education department didn’t have fire extinguishers,” added Pednekar.