The government seems to have woken up to the need for ensuring fire safety in high-rises after Monday’s blaze at a multi-storey building on central Delhi’s Kasturba Gandhi Marg.
The fire department will issue a public notice directed at occupants of high-rises that came up before or in 1986, asking them to ensure that all safety rules are being observed. A fire department-led inspection of the buildings will follow.
At least 3,000 high-rises in the city were constructed before 1986. The law requires that the buildings reach minimum safety standards to minimise damage in case of a fire.
A number of high-rises, including Himalaya House where a fire broke out on Monday, are ageing. The New Delhi Fire Services Rules, 2010, under the Delhi Fire Service Act, 2007, do not apply to them.
According to the rules, every building with a height of more than nine metres or those that have two upper storeys are required to adhere to minimum standards for fire prevention. The rules also make it mandatory for every such building to get its fire-safety certificate renewed regularly. However, this does not apply to the old buildings.
“The law says buildings that came up before 1986 are supposed to reach the 12 minimum safety standards. The idea is that if they maintain those safety standards, damage will be minimised. This includes having water tanks, proper accesses, hose wheels, fire-detection systems, fire alarms and stand-by generators. Hence, they don’t need to conform to the new law,” said a senior Delhi Fire Services officer.
“The new fire provisions require structural changes to the buildings, which is not feasible. These buildings don’t have space to make such changes too,” added the official. It is only while renewing fire-safety certificates that fire officials are able to check facilities such as staircases, which does not apply to these buildings.
“Other equipment including hydrants, hose reels, sprinkler systems, detection systems, fire pumps and public announcement systems are also inspected. A certificate is valid for five years for residential structures and three for commercial,” added the official.