New code for buildings

New code for buildings

Building safety

Nature has a way of taking a toll on life and property when man expects it the least. While it is easy to blame it on carelessness, lack of planning, congestion and deforestation among other reasons for disasters, it is imperative for man to take stock of the situation and do his best to overcome the problem.

                                                                                                                                                         Fire accidents are among the worst natural disasters. History stands testimony to the fact that great libraries like the ones in Alexandria, Egypt or Chicago, USA were vulnerable  to fire, and caused huge losses. The list of the great fires that have been maintained is unbelievably long and fills one with a sense of horror.

Architects have always considered the possibility of a fire accident whenever they have launched prestigious projects. Palaces, public halls, museums, hotels, theatres and libraries are generally provided with an emergency fire exit and also have fire hydrants of the period at handy points to prevent an accidental fire from spreading. In spite of all possible caution, fire accidents do happen on and off and disrupt normal life.

Fire fighting techniques have come a long way over a period of time. Today, we have technology to aid us in fire fighting. We have electronic smoke detectors and temperature change detectors which could be fixed in buildings in order to set off an alarm in the case of a fire. The market is flooded with fire-hydrants that are easy to use and increasing competition in the area has kept the prices nominal and has prevented many investors from burning a hole in their pockets. Fire exits, also known as emergency exits, are carefully constructed using non-inflammable material and non conductors of electricity. Builders across the world are trying to substitute inflammable material with non-inflammable ones wherever possible and are trying to incorporate as many fire safety facilities to a large extent. India has put forth a National Building Code (NBC) which is being enforced on all builders and land developers.

Fire protection and safety installations which form a key part of all constructions are the key concern of NBC. Technological advancements, increased use of electric and electronic products, poor city planning and a lack of green cover has inspired NBC to involve itself in the act of protecting the assets of the nation.

Several NGOs and private bodies have stepped in to assist this government policy by sensitising citizens about how it is important to protect their buildings from a possible fire and also how to react in the event of a fire. Fire protection professionals, project managers, consultant engineers, facility managers, insurance surveyors and security officers have been roped in to aid their challenging task.
Several firms such as Bangalore based Firepro Systems, Siemens, Gunnebo, Cardax and The Fire and Safety Association of India (FSAI) have been on their toes to assist the NBC in their respective capacities in its venture. The metros are a major cause for concern to the NBC more than ever before.

FSAI’s seminar

The authorities have realised the need to educate and sensitise people in fire management. It is with this intention FSAI hosted a seminar on Engineering a Safe and Secure India: Responsibilities, Challenges and Solutions to discuss the various dimensions of security problems. MC Mutthanna, who chaired the seminar on fire fighting said that he hoped more people would become aware of various methods of protecting themselves from the possible havoc that a fire can wreak. 

Chairman of the Technical Committee Liaqut Ali Khan said a number of measures have been taken by NGOs to reduce the excise duty on safety products which may be active, passive, fixed or mobile as the case may be so that more people have access to the facilities.

The Karnataka State Fire Services which has been rated among the best in the country is of the opinion that the effectiveness of safety quotient is based on the importance given by builders to NBC.

The engineers who are working on fire safety products acknowledged that India still needs to have a concrete structure in place to propagate and formalise the approach to managing fire and safety systems. Anandraman, an engineer working on the project, said efforts are being made to make the fire dousing techniques suit Indian conditions.       

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