Fire safety major casualty in Vidhana Soudha

Fire safety major casualty in Vidhana Soudha

The hot seat of power, Vidhana Soudha, is unlikely to receive a No Objection Certificate (NoC) from the Karnataka State Fire and Emergency Services Department on account of lack of modern fire fighting equipment.

Since its construction, Vidhana Soudha has seen 20 chief ministers and numerous cabinet rank ministers. However, till date, none of them have been kept safe from a possible fire accident in the Secretariat.

No building above the height of 50 mts is allowed to be occupied without an NoC from the Fire Department. Vidhana Soudha is 67 mts in height. 

The PWD had not initiated any safety measures barring hand-held fire extinguishers on each of the three occupied floors inside Vidhana Soudha. The Fire Department in 2003 had recommended to the Secretariat  installation of manually operated electrical fire alarm systems with call points near each staircase, four wet riser-cum-down comer systems, one each near every staircase landing, and marking of escape routes to guide occupants to move freely in an emergency.

PWD officials, while admitting awareness about the recommendations, said that it was virtually impossible to modernise the fire safety measures in  Vidhana Soudha due to certain constraints.

For example, the PWD has been unable to install a wet riser-cum-down comer system on account of concerns about spoiling the aesthetics of the heritage structure. A wet riser needs to be installed from the outside of the building, attached to the structure on all the four sides of the construction. This might prove an ‘eyhand-hesore’ due to the red coloured pipes, said PWD officials. 

Officials dismiss the need for a Fire Department NOC, and contend that the wide corridors of Vidhana Soudha and the open space around the building is sufficient to deploy fire fighters and safeguard the occupants in case of emergencies. 

But questions are being raised about the temporary wooden partitions within rooms and the massive paper trail, which could pose a hazard in case of fires. 

The neighbouring Vikas Soudha is stated to be unsafe by the Fire Department on account of an extended basement area with steep ramps which cause hindrance to fire engines to enter and exit the building. 

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