50% of deaths in commercial building fires are from K'taka

50% of deaths in commercial building fires are from K'taka

50% of deaths in commercial building fires are from K'taka

Shouldn't the London apartment fire be a clear message to highrises in Bengaluru, many of which have questionable fire safety systems? Yes, says Beyond Carlton, a fire safety forum that has just launched a social media campaign with a grim reminder: Fifty per cent of deaths in commercial building fires in India are reported from Karnataka.

Analysing data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the forum found that 61% of deaths by fire were reported from just five states including Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh.

But the most disturbing piece of statistic from the 2015 annual data was this: As many as 10,925 women died in fire accidents compared to 6,672 men. A total of 7,445 people died in fires reported from homes nationwide that year.

Starved of space, as Bengaluru and other Indian cities take a vertical shift with unbridled growth of highrises, the risk of fire will rise exponentially.

If in 2015, 48 Indians died everyday in fire accidents, it could be much more in the near future, warn fire experts.

Sustained campaigns by Beyond Carlton and other citizens had helped amend rules to empower the Karnataka State Fire & Emergency Services with re-inspection rights. The department could now re-inspect highrises and order for cutting of power supply if any violations in fire safety norms are detected. 

Highrises (buildings above 15 m high, four storeys tall) are now required to get a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the fire department every two years.

Violations, if found, should be rectified to avoid penalty and power disruption.

Existing rules also mandate highrises to allocate adequate setback area around the building before Occupancy Certificates are issued by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).

Rules violated
But, as Uday Vijayan from Beyond Carlton points out, the rules are often violated after the fire clearance is obtained. For instance, space around the building are misused for parking and other utilities. During emergencies, the space will have to be free for fire fighting vehicles to move around and pitch their ladder for quick rescue of trapped people.

Vijayan draws the attention to other common but dangerous violations: Fire exits are blocked/escape paths dumped with material; sprinklers and smoke alarms are blocked or covered; and electrical rooms are filled with combustible material.

Fire hydrants without water is another safety violation. “There has to be 24x7 water in hydrants even though water is not available in sanitation.”