The Mantralaya fire has raised questions about the fire-fighting capability of private buildings across the city. To prevent such disasters, the Builders Association of India (BAI) has requested the civic body to make it mandatory for all residential and commercial buildings to conduct a fire audit annually.
The reason: after the fire brigade issues the No-Objection Certificate for a newly constructed building, little attention is paid to matters of fire safety. "We adhere to fire safety norms and hand over the building. But after that residents often carry out large-scale alternations and don't maintain the fire-fighting equipment," said Anand Gupta, secretary, BAI. "More than 90% of the buildings in the city have no fire-fighting preparedness."
Gupta cites the example of a building he constructed in Worli a decade ago. "When I visited the place recently, the fire-fighting material was rusted and non-functional."
The tenants of many buildings encroach upon open areas within the structure as well as use substandard electrical materials. Activists agree with Gupta. "The Mantralaya episode had taught us a lesson. There should be no compromise on safety," said Anil Mishra, housing activist.
MV Deshmukh, fire advisor and director of Maharashtra Fire Services, said an annual fire audit would be tough at this stage as the fire brigade has staff crunch. "We have rules that all buildings constructed after 2008 must submit six-monthly audits. Others must adhere to rules under which their fire NOC was issued. It will take time to enforce the rules due to shortage of staff," said Deshmukh.