The Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Rules, 2009, which was implemented by the state fire department in late 2010, has all the teeth required to make fire safety a top priority for citizens, but lack of awareness and implementation had ensured that no one has yet felt its bite.
The act empowers the fire brigade to disconnect a building’s water and power supply if its residents are found to be neglecting fire safety. Citizens can also face a minimum jail term of six months and a fine of at least Rs20,000.
According to the rules, every building has to present a certificate twice a year to prove that that fire safety equipment has been maintained.
MV Deshmukh, director, Maharashtra Fire Services, a government body which regulates fire departments across the state, blamed the non-implementation on lack of awareness among the public. “The fire department should take a proactive role in spreading awareness about this act. They need to carry out suo-moto inspections and make an example of those found guilty of neglecting fire safety. Only then will the public wake up to the strong provisions this act.”
The fire brigade, however, has cited shortage of manpower and put the onus on citizens. “We don’t have enough staff to inspect every building in the city. Hence, we will only be able to carry out limited inspections, and the citizens will have to take the initiative,” chief fire officer Suhas Joshi said.
Since the law came into effect in December 2010, the city’s fire brigade has been able to inspect only 1,082 buildings until May this year.