TODAY -

Fire safety and prevention
- Part 2 -

RK Babloo Singh *

Observance of National Fire Service Day at Manipur Fire Service Headquarters, Imphal  :: 16  April 2014
Observance of National Fire Service Day at Manipur Fire Service Headquarters, Imphal on 16 April 2014 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam



It was observed that lack of knowledge in the area of fire and inadequate training in emergency drills, delays the firefighting operations. Probably adequate fire safety training and periodic emergency drills can make the emergency response more effective .

Training the employees / occupants and fire drills are clearly related but are not synonymous and it is a common misconception that conducting periodic fire drills discharge an occupier’s training obligations. No doubt fire drills are very valuable exercise but taken in isolation, they are insufficient in educating employees / occupants in all the important matters .

Training of employees / occupants in fire safety matters continues to be a controversial issue with many occupiers adopting the attitude that it is not reasonably practicable to provide training for all employees / occupants. This stance has probably never been fully tested legally. However, many occupiers take fire training seriously and train a large number of their employees / occupants .

Legislations : The legislations, standards and codes have a vital role in forcing the occupiers to provide the required fire protection system, both active and passive. The National Building Code of India, 2005, is the basic model code in India on matters relating to building construction and fire safety. Many of the code provisions has been incorporated by various State Governments and Local Bodies in their own building regulations .

The Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Rules 2009, framed under the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act 2006, is an example to this, and is aimed to improve the status of fire safety measures in Maharashtra. Often a question has been raised by many that who will be responsible for providing the required fire protection and prevention system in a building or in an occupancy.

The acts and rules enacted by the State of Maharashtra has well defined on these points. According to Section 3 of the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006, the developer, owner, occupier or whatever name called shall comply with all the fire and safety measures adhering to the National Building Code of India, 2005, and as amended from time to time, failing which it shall be treated as a violation of the Act. It means that the onus of maintaining the fire safety installations in a building or in an occupancy is the responsibility of the owner or occupier.

In India, although there are many rules and regulations, codes and standards related to fire safety, these are seldom followed. Laxity in following fire safety measures caused major fires in many buildings. Some of the fire authorities in India even felt that in the absence of heavy fines and penalties, occupiers or societies do not bother to conduct regular maintenance of the fire prevention systems installed in their buildings .

Probably this was one of the reasons behind in incorporating a provision about ‘Licensed Agency’ in the Maharashtra Rules. As per the section 3(3) of the Maharashtra Fire Prevention & Life Safety Measures Act, 2006 and Rule 4 (2) of Maharashtra Fire Prevention & Life Safety Measures Rule, 2009, a licensed agency is required to issue a Certificate regarding the work executed by them is in compliance in relation to Fire Prevention & Life Safety Measures in Form ‘A’ and Six monthly Certificate in Form ‘B’ in every January & July to the owner or the occupier for compliance of the Fire Prevention & Life Safety Measures duly installed by them in the buildings or premises are maintained in good repair and efficient condition at the time of issuing certificate .

Fire safety audit : Fire Safety Audit is found to be an effective tool for assessing fire Safety standards of an organization or an occupancy. In other words, it is aimed to assess the building for compliance with the National Building Code of India, relevant Indian Standards and the legislations enacted by State Governments and Local Bodies, on fire prevention, fire protection and life safety measures .

Though a comprehensive fire safety audit can address the inherent fire hazards associated with the day to day activities in an occupancy and recommend measures to reduce the potential fire hazards, there is no clear cut provisions in any of the safety legislations in India regarding the scope, objectives, methodology and periodicity of a fire safety audit .

However, NBC of India recommends for periodical fire safety inspection by the key personnel of the occupants of the building to ensure fire safety standards. In case of industrial building, the statutory authorities insist for fire safety audit by external agencies depending on the type of activity and the nature of the materials handled in the building. Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Rules, 2009, made it mandatory for building owners and residents to conduct half-yearly fire safety audits and submit the report to the fire department .

It is a good measure and other states too can follow this. However, entrusting the responsibility of conducting the fire safety audit to the “licensed agencies”, has created some confusions, because the same agency has also been entrusted with the work of “installations” and “maintenance” of firefighting systems. Perhaps this arrangement has resulted in diluting the scope and methodology of the audit. It is also doubtful whether the so called “licensed agencies” have the required calibre / expertise in conducting an effective fire safety audit. So in effect, it seems that the fire safety audit has become a ritual .

Conclusion : A fire can happen at any time at any place. It creates total waste. It has the potential to cause harm to its occupants and severe damage to property . In India, fire accounts for about 5.9% of the total deaths reported due to natural and un-natural causes during the year 2012. The fires has been rated as the 5th largest risk in Indian industry. Electrical defaults are the major causes of fires in India.

Therefore proper attention must be paid to minimize fire loss because ultimately the community at large has to bear all the losses. The use of smoke detectors, fire alarms, automatic sprinklers, water mist systems, clean agent suppression system, should be encouraged, especially in high rise buildings. Passive fire protection system should have major role in fire protection .

In India, although there are many rules and regulations, codes and standards related to fire safety, these are seldom followed. Laxity in following fire safety measures caused major fires in many buildings. Though fire safety audit is found to be an effective tool for assessing fire safety standards of an occupancy, there is no clear cut provisions in any of the safety legislations in India, regarding the scope, objective, methodology and periodicity of a fire safety audit.

Therefore, Fire Safety Audit should be made mandatory for all over India and the work should be entrusted to independent agencies, who have expertise in it. It is reasonable to have a fire safety audit in every year .

Above all the success of fire prevention and fire protection mainly depend upon the active co-operation from all personnel in an occupancy.

Concluded.....


* RK Babloo Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Chief Security Officer, Raj Medicity, North AOC, Imphal
This article was posted on July 17, 2017.


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