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Officials promise to make bldgs safe

mumbai Updated: Jun 29, 2012 01:42 IST
Highlight Story

A day after Hindustan Times reported how unprepared and unsafe city’s major buildings are in terms of fire safety, the authorities on Thursday conceded there are discrepancies in the fire-fighting systems at these buildings, and claimed they have begun the process of making them safe.

Chandrashekhar Oak, Mumbai collector, said that the proposal to carry out a fire audit in Old Custom House was submitted to the public works department (PWD) a few weeks ago. “There are few problems in terms of fire safety in this building. Fire extinguishers are not installed everywhere, and due to renovation work, furniture is lying in the passage,” he said, adding that being a heritage building, major changes in its structure are not possible.

Officials at Aayakar Bhavan, the income tax office, said they held a meeting on June 25 about fire safety in the building after the fire at Mantralaya. “A comprehensive report, which was prepared at the end of the discussions, will be sent to the heads of departments and the building in-charge,” said Lal Chand, additional commissioner of income tax (headquarters).

The Bombay high court has also set up a committee to review the fire equipment at its premises, informed SB Shukre, registrar general of the high court.

Naresh Chandra, pro-vice chancellor of Mumbai University said the authorities are planning to conduct a fire audit at all the institutions associated with the varsity. Accepting that wooden scrap material had been lying near the exits of Churchgate terminus building, Nitin David, Western Railways spokesperson, said it has now been removed. “We will also inquire about the smoke detectors,” he said.

The Heera Panna administration, however, denied violating fire safety norms. “We haven't had any fire incident in last 30-35 years. We have maintained all the norms and have a certificate from the fire brigade department,” said Nandkumar Paradkar, manager, Heera-Panna complex.

Six spots inspected

Heera Panna Shopping Centre, Haji ali - 2/10

What the panelists found
One of the city’s oldest shopping markets for electronic goods and accessories, Heera Panna, with 144 shops, has only one visible fire extinguisher. The centrally air-conditioned shopping zone has a rudimentary fire detection system, and electric wires dangling across the corridors.

“We have installed 17 fire extinguishers in all. Every year before the monsoon we clean the ceilings and that’s why the wires were dangling during the audit. The contractor has not placed the ceiling back in position. We have also sought valid certificates from fire brigade.”
Nandkumar Paradkar, manager, Heera Panna Shopping Complex


University of Mumbai, Fort campus - 4/10

What the panelists found
The administrative division of the city’s university houses important student documents. There is fire detection system in place, the wide passageways and the fact that the building is only two storeys high will make evacuation easier. However, the grills fixed along the corridor windows could make refuge access difficult.

“We are planning to conduct a fire audit in all the institutions affiliated with the university. We are in the process of digitizing records and documents and will train staff members to make use of these equipments.”
Naresh Chandra, pro-vice chancellor, Mumbai University-

Old Customs House, Fort -- 0/10

What the panelists found
The structural frame of the building was dilapidated. With broken wooden staircases and no fire escape stairs, the building has old fire extinguishers and poor fire response system.

“I accept that there are a few flaws in the fire fighting system, and there are several spots that have not been equipped with fire exiting. Since it is a heritage structure, we have to seek several permissions before even beginning any work. We havesubmitted the fire audit plan to the PWD weeks ago, before the fire in Mantralaya.”
Chandrashekhar Oak, collector

Churchgate station - 1/10

What the panelists found
One of the city’s most crowded railway stations, there’s little to fight fire or escape it, with blocked fire exits and poor fire detection and fighting systems. The building’s glass façade reduced ventilation inside the building which would convert it into a smoke chamber in case of a fire. All the fire extinguishers are past their expiry dates.

“Every floor has a water hydrant and necessary fire extinguishers. The scrap material that was found in the staircase is not usually present. Since we didn’t have the
necessary transportation facility, it was present at the time of the audit. We will check on the working conditions of the smoke detectors.”
Nitin David, Western Railway spokesperson

Bombay high court, Fort - 2/10

What the panelists found
The three-storeyed heritage structure, which has thousands of lawyers and claimants visiting it every day, is not at all equipped to deal with a fire. Only the courtroom has a fire detection system. The electrical wiring is haphazard and the plywood corridors can easily catch and spread fire. The library of the building, which houses more than one lakh reference books, does not even have a fire extinguisher.

“We are taking stock of the present situation. A committee has been set up to review the fire equipments in the premises and further steps will be taken soon to ensure that the fire detection means are made up-to-date.”
SB Shukre, registrar general, Bombay high court

Aayakar Bhavan, New Marine Lines - 2/10

What the panelists found
Most of the corridors at the head office of the income tax department were blocked with iron cupboards and piles of documents. All fire extinguishers there have expired in 2010, and there are no fire detection systems. The new building has neither a well-defined refuge area nor adequate fire escape staircases.

“We had held a meeting to analyse and study the problem areas. A report, which was prepared at the end of the meet, will be sent to the heads of departments and building in-charge. The blocked corridors and the dated fire extinguishers have been enlisted as problem areas in our report.”
Lal Chand, additional commissioner of I-T (HQ), administration