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Fighting with Fire

Friday, April 14, 2017

April 14 is observed as ‘Fire Fighting Day’ in Maharashtra and ‘National Fire Service Day’ in India. Vishwasrao Sakpal explains how housing societies in Mumbai should deal with blazing issues

‘Fire Prevention Service Week’ is held from April 14 to April 20 every year in Maharashtra. In the recent past, there have been numerous incidents of fire in the state and Mumbai city. To identify the loopholes in the fire fighting system and violation of the provisions and rules and regulations pertaining to fire prevention measures, it is very essential to know about the mock / fire drill method to be followed in this regard.

Short circuit woes
More than 50% of fire incidents occur due to short circuit. This is mainly due to the tendency of following short-cut method in electrical wiring installation, cheap quality material and violating the basic norms as laid down by B.E.S.T./M.S.E.B. The electrical fitting and system in many buildings in the state needs replacement and poses safety hazard. For example, the electricity supply wires are seen hanging haphazardly and instead of replacing the old / worn out wires and switches, people just continue by putting tape around. This is very risky from a safety point of view.

Say no to lift
There is a simple rule of ‘not to use the lift’ when there is a fire in building premises. But, many people including firemen lost their precious lives in fires in high-storied buildings in Thane and Powai by neglecting this rule. As per the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006, owners of individual houses and co-operative housing societies have to check that their individual houses / buildings are safe in all respect from fire hazard and obtain required certificate from the concerned fire department about the same twice a year. This is mandatory.

Fire audit a must
General human tendency is to avoid fire audit, fire prevention and life safety rules and regulations, resulting in increased fire incidents. To carry out fire audits in residential / commercial premises, private agencies have been appointed by paying lakhs of rupees. The Fire Brigade Centres have blamed private agencies for unsatisfactory performance in this respect.

Taking serious note of the increasing fire incidents during the past few months, fire brigade authorities have started strict checking of high buildings, malls, commercial business centres and hotels. The investigations revealed that majority of high buildings, malls, commercial business centres and hotels with either fire extinguishers and preventive measure system are inadequate or totally out of order.

Outdated methods
Fire brigade personnel were not able to control the fire due to old and outdated fire-fighting method, discipline and lack of liaison among the staff. This has resulted in loss of property and precious lives. In a fire incident at Gokul House, Kalbadevi, four senior officers lost their lives. The enquiry committee appointed for investigation into the fire incident at Gokul House has submitted its report which clearly condemn the old system of fire fighting. After careful study of entire system, it has been advised that newly designed fire-fighting method must be used. It is essential to train fire-men and officers of fire brigade and to appoint an ‘incident officer’ to avoid panic when fire takes place, as suggested in the study report.

Fire hydrants
The Mumbai Municipal Corporation is trying to make water available in a dry ‘fire hydrants’ located at various footpaths all over the city to be able to use when a fire takes place. The water distribution timings are different in various parts of the city. Hence, it is necessary to make water available when a fire takes place in a particular area. The feasibility of providing separate water pipe line especially for fire hydrants located at the various parts of the city is being studied by the municipal authorities.

In order to have large public awareness, self-discipline and implementation of fire fighting and fire prevention rules and regulations is a must. Fire audit implementation along with fire preventative measures will help to prevent loss of property and lives.

Safety precautions
(A)     All electricity meters, main switches and all other electrical equipment located below the staircase on ground level of all the co-operative housing society buildings to be shifted to some other safe location. There is every possibility of water getting accumulated during the monsoon at this place resulting in shock in case of fire due to short-circuit.

(B)    To arrange for the fire drill once a month as per the convenience of society members. In order to practice how to work in orderly manner, follow the instructions given by the superiors in case of fire. The drill includes how to unfold the hose pipe fully and fold again, fixing of pipe and nozzle, targeting the water flow in right direction and systematic demonstration of removing partly affected / injured person due to fire.

(C)    To arrange for the mock fire drill for the benefit of society members, once in six months without any prior intimation. Mock fire rill means symbolic fire fighting operation or puttingout dummy fire. In this segment, assuming as if there is fire in the society building, members and their families are made aware by ringing fire-bell. The society members and their families are advised to assemble calmly and in orderly manner in the open area within the compound. By using various types of fire extinguishers, the warden, society members and their families demonstrate how to extinguish the small fire deliberately created for the said purpose.

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