When fire breaks out, building residents are quick to blame the civic body or the Fire Department for failing to implement safety norms. But, often, residents themselves are to blame.
Civic activists said it’s rare for residents to take the initiative when it comes to putting in place fire safety measures.
“We are the only residents’ association to have started fire safety audits,” said Indrani Malkani, honorary secretary and trustee of the Malabar Hill Residents’ Association. In the past few years, association members have approached the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Fire Department for help in chalking out safety requirements and to source equipment. It is up to each managing committee, which bears the costs, to ensure that every flat complies and that the equipment is in working condition.
Malkani was appalled that most residents flout safety norms by blocking emergency escape routes or taking over for private use areas such as rooftops, compounds and gardens.
“When an accident occurs, it compromises the lives of those in neighbouring buildings as well,” she said. “There is no price on life, all buildings must enforce fire norms.”
Zahida Banatwalla, area representative of the Juhu Citizens Welfare Group, stays in a building where residents tried to construct an emergency gate. “But the BMC rejected it, claiming the gate would open onto a supposedly private road,” she said.
Banatwalla blamed not just residents, who “buy their way to getting more space”, but also BMC officials for their complicity and lack of vigilance.