Blog Archives - Beyond Carlton
29
May

“Why is fire safety such an important matter for Odisha?”

Conversation with Mr P.K. Jena, IAS, Chief Secretary, Govt. of Odisha during the 13th Beyond Carlton Memorial 2023

On BEYOND CARLTON:

BEYOND CARLTON has deeply motivated me, so much that I want to partner with the organisation to take this movement beyond Bangalore to Odisha. Thank you for partnering with us.

Achieving zero casualties is possible

All of you might be aware of a disaster that struck 22 years ago – the Odisha Super Cyclone 1999, where as many as 10,000 human lives were lost, I was then a young Collector. In the past three years I have managed seven very major cyclones, and we have now achieved zero casualties. After this, I was happy that we are quite good in managing flood and cyclones. But there are three areas which are contributing to death in a very large number in my State apart from road accidents, they are

  1. Fire
  2. Snakebites
  3. Drowning

 

That’s when I had a conversation with Anup (Executive Council Member, BEYOND CARLTON) and thought, fire – is something we could start to work on. 

I believe, hazards will be there – either natural or man-made. Why should hazards become disasters? If all of us, administration and communities, work together we can avoid disasters. That’s where I found, it’s not purely technical or governmental. Government cannot alone control disasters, we need communities. We need someone to know how to approach the communities, that’s when I found BEYOND CARLTON.

There was no “Beyond Madhubhan” 13 years ago

 

Madhuban fire: Fire Accident in Baripada Odisha, 1997 Pic source: JPS

We had a major fire in Odisha, exactly 13 years before the Carlton Towers incident, Feb 23rd 1997, where 154 lives were lost. But no ‘Beyond Mahdubhan’ started. At Carlton Towers, nine were lives lost and the way you came up and the way you are spreading the message, I believe, your initial journey might have been difficult, now you can count me as one of your members. 

Our Chief Minister says “We can’t lose a life to a disaster”, it is a big statement, but in a cyclone, we are able to achieve this to a large extent. I believe if we can’t make it zero, at least we can minimize it. With the hope of minimizing the deaths due to fire accidents, we (OSDMA) have now partnered with BEYOND CARLTON. As a pilot, we have started with two cities, Bhubaneswar and Cuttack and soon we will take it to all the cities and towns of Odisha.

Mr. R. A. Venkitachalam: Preparedness and resilience – India as a society, we often hear – ‘Chalta hai, there is nothing much to worry about’. In such a societal status we have today, how do you think a change can be made in terms of being prepared, being resilient?

Mr. P.K. Jena: Three events in this country have served the disaster management discourse.  They are –

  • Super cyclone 1999
  • 2001 Bhuj earthquake
  • 2004 South Asian Tsunami

After that, everyone started talking about disaster management. The paradigm shift happened only after Super Cyclone. Odisha is the first to start special aid called Odisha State Disaster Management in the country. We also came up with the first special disaster response force. After National Disaster Management Act came into place, many things started happening across India. With disaster management – preparedness, mitigation and adaptation, in place, we have seen successes in flood and cyclone management as well as in reducing lightning deaths in Odisha. 

Government alone cannot do it

Every year we used to lose 500-600 numbers, now we have come down to 150. Hopefully, in the next two-three years, we will bring it to a single digit. So, preparedness is key. But then, government alone cannot do it. The first responders are the communities, so they should know. Unless we prepare the community, and preparing community is a difficult task. For government and bureaucrats, it is not their cup of tea. So, you need different skill-sets. Therefore, you need to first prepare the bureaucracy, at all levels, to accept community as partners and then work with the community to prepare them. So that is the first lesson.

Unless you know what your strengths and weaknesses are, how to respond, what to do in case of emergencies, it is not possible. If the communities do not understand their hazard profiles, if they are convinced that this can be prevented, or the hazard impact can be minimized, possibly we can get them along. 

Talking about the institutional frameworks, we have these beautiful Acts, if we do not enforce, there is no real change. In India, we have National Disaster Management Act 2005, I’m sure nobody would have looked at it, including me perhaps, until COVID struck. The Act gives so much power to the disaster management authority when a disaster strikes. 

The legal framework should not be taxing for the citizens

The way we casually act, the city administration, state governments, possibly leads to hazards turning into disasters. Basically, what is the legal framework, how simple it is, how processes and systems are built in a simplified manner. Everybody will not feel so burdened to comply. That is where we are averting. For example, if for getting a fire safety certificate, I have to run from pillar to post, and do a lot of underhand dealings, it’s better I avoid. So, we have to introspect, how our legal framework supports the individuals. How the institutional framework, instead of taxing and penalizing the individuals, motivates and influences them to comply. So these are few areas where we need to work.

Mr. R. A. Venkitachalam: BEYOND CARLTON does a lot of work with apartment owners and public at large. My last question would be about OSDMA. Under your leadership, OSDMA has become a case study in a lot of business schools in different parts of the world. It’s been a shining star of what a government department can do to catalyse society at large and government administrations in particular to respond to disasters gigantic magnitudes that affects millions of people. Can you tell us what sort of mobilization you have achieved in OSDMA. If you take the major cities in India, it is already congested, and adequate infrastructure or resources to handle the cities. The cities like Bhubaneshwar or Cuttack is very populated now when compared to major cities, but you thought it right to start even now. What are the lessons we can learn from OSDMA?

Mr. P.K. Jena: Our leadership under the current Chief Minister, enables us to take the important decisions with respect to disaster management. What we realize is, the golden hour is important where none of us can help. Even the fire service vehicles take time to reach the spot. It is the community, it is the volunteers, it is the local civil society organizations, unless you empower them, unless we work with them, things will not happen. 

Lessons from COVID

Odisha has been very successful in managing COVID, not because we in administration did a lot of things. It is because of the Gram Panchayats, the elected representatives we empowered them with the power of district magistrate. The sarpanch of the gram panchayat was empowered with the power of district magistrate, the seven odd lakh women self-help groups, were given the responsibility of managing the quarantine centres. Because of the public engagement with the system, this was possible.

Community is the crux

In Odisha, in every village we have a village disaster management committee who are trained. In 50 per cent of our villages, we have at least 10 boys and 10 girls who are trained in first aid and rescue. Before the special aid reaches, at least they should have done something, they know how to make a stretcher out of nothing, or how to lift a person in situation of a fire or a building collapse. So, they become the auxiliary forces to our main force. Only prescription I’d give is, we can do everything, but nothing without the community. Unless we empower them, unless we give them the adequate skills, and believe in their capacities, things will not happen. 

Mr. R. A. Venkitachalam: We have worked with you for the past one year, we’d like to say, it’s been an outstanding experience working with the team. You have brought to the table, every department that can be impacted with fire safety. Thank you for that.

Mr.P.K. Jena: I value our partnership, with that we are aspiring to achieve zero casualties, I’m sure we’d achieve it in another 3-5 years.

Home fire extinguisher - gifting ideas
21
Jul

Gifting A Fire Extinguisher To My Friend

In today’s scenario, it is inevitable to keep oneself well-informed about safety precautions regarding ways to combat fire accidents. With the growing demand for apartments, space crunch grows alongside. In order to accommodate the requirements, the builders too, take shortcuts by going for sub-standard materials. This in turn, definitely affects the quality of the building and fire safety pre-requisites are hardly followed. While complaining about the external factors in such matters, there are sure ways to keep ourselves and our neighbourhood safe from accidental fires.

As I contemplated this, I realized that it is very important to highlight the importance of safeguarding everyone possible from accidental fires. I decided to gift my friend a fire extinguisher to underline the significance of what I intended to say.

After COVID our idea of safety has changed for good!

My gift proved quite strange to my friend. She was puzzled, indeed. She is not really aware of accidental fires happening across residential buildings, schools, hospitals etc. As I have been writing for a few years for Beyond Carlton, I realized the importance of keeping ourselves and our neighbourhood at bay from any sort of fire accident. The solution lies in our very own hands. I try to educate my family, friends and neighbours on fire safety, in every manner possible. Gifting a fire extinguisher is definitely one such attempt. I strongly feel that by gifting a fire extinguisher, I will be in a better position to explain to her the importance along with the technical know-how.

Apathy still prevails

In general, the common notion among the general public is those fire extinguishers are meant to be kept only in shops, malls and public places. There is almost no awareness even among the learned community regarding accidental fires and fires caused due to negligence at home. The danger of fire accidents begins from a single matchstick or candle or diya to gas stoves and cylinders. The spread of such fires in an unkempt household fueled by unawareness can cause the utmost tragedy.

Why is it important to teach your children about safety?

As the saying goes, it’s better to practice than preach. To exercise awareness and hit on my message, I gifted my friend, a fire extinguisher. This helped me in the best possible manner as,” actions speak louder than words.” My message was bang on, which is not surprising to me. This is how I wanted to send across my singular message. It proved successful as the entire family, especially, the kids were extremely curious to know ‘why a fire extinguisher was in my home?’. They even wanted a demo on the usage, so that they can try using the fire extinguisher once. This seemed like a fun activity coupled with sensible learning. As their presence of mind is far greater than adults,I exploited this opportunity to drive lots of sense into the young, inquisitive minds. This simplified my task as I got an opportunity to explain the importance and usage of the fire extinguisher. The curious minds were highly convinced of my reasoning on the necessity of owning it and, more importantly on how and when to use it.

The entire family appreciated my efforts and concern in this regard. They were all in praise of my thoughtfulness and sensibility. A little presence of mind goes a long way in helping your community in educating on such unspoken-of issues. It proves all the more important in today’s scenario as most of houses are crowded with electrical appliances in small spaces. Every now and then we read and hear news about accidental fires across communities. But, sadly we go past such unfortunate accidents, thinking that it will never happen to us. There is absolutely no takeaways or lessons learnt at any point. But this involves the precious lives of our beloved family or friends. Hence, the awareness of the prevention of fire accidents needs a strong mention.

A small investment can make a difference

It is at this juncture, I take the opportunity to share the details of basic fire extinguishers. A basic fire extinguisher can last upto a year or two, costing around INR1000. Since it’s easily available online, you may conveniently order it and sit back and relax, as you have made one of the best investments for the safety of your family.

There is also a car fire extinguisher which you may want to make a great addition to your annual budget. These might seem unnecessary at the outset, but such small investments are really worth it, after all, we really don’t mind spending a few thousand on protecting our mobile phones!

Signing off with a strong message,”Prevention is better than cure”, fits perfectly with reference to awareness of accidental fires and ways to combat them.

_______________________________________________________________

 

Written by Vidhya Renganathan

Vidhya is a content writer based in Chennai, always envisions the betterment of society & captures it in writing.

 

 

There is still a fire
8
Jan

There is still a fire

Residential fires account for 58 per cent of all fires, while fire-related deaths are over 10,000 annually in India! The overall deficiency in the country in a number of Fire Stations is 97.54%, in fire-fighting & rescue vehicles 80.04% and in fire, personnel is 96.28%, respectively. (NDMA Guideline, 2012, CR SFAC, 2011). We are woefully deficient as a nation toward fire preparedness.
It’s clear the citizen has to take charge.

BEYOND CARLTON is committed to Scripting Citizen Fire Safety 101. We are plugging away toward our vision –  zero loss of life due to fire.  That’s a mighty task! Our eleven-year effort has carved a niche in India’s citizen fire safety map. The impact of successful advocacy by BEYOND CARLTON has led the Karnataka State Government to declare 23rd February (the date of the Carlton Fire accident), as Fire Awareness and Prevention Day across the State. It has helped create a large platform for visibility and created an opportunity to build fire safety awareness amongst communities, schools, hospitals and others.

Our aim is to reach every home with the fire prevention message. The B-FIRE SAFE program is designed for this purpose. It is also important we encourage youth participation to bring a fresh perspective and newer ideas for action on citizen fire safety. Our interns from the National Fire Service College, Nagpur, underscored the lack of recorded fire-related data. Their study on How Fire-safe is New Delhi gives some pointers on what more needs to be done. We continue to build on national and international partnerships to strengthen our reach, learning, and impact. A lot more needs to be done on the fire-front.  Meanwhile, we hope where there is a fire, there is a prepared citizen.

 

Bannerghatta fire accident
15
Nov

Fire Safety – Are Residents Also Accountable Under Law?

In the month of September 2021, a mother and daughter were killed due to a fire breaking out in an apartment near Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore. During this time, whether in television, newspapers or discussion with friends and colleagues, there was a sudden interest and surge of questions on who can be held accountable for fire accidents in high rise buildings. More often than not, people concluded that fire accidents occur due to the negligence of builders. The builders might either construct buildings in violation of a sanctioned plan or resort to corruption and procure occupancy certificate without complying with applicable laws. However, what about the residents and owners of apartments in these buildings?  Are residents merely victims or do residents also have responsibilities under the law as well? If yes, then, where does the builder’s responsibility end and residents’ responsibility begin? 

Which Law?

Which Law? 

On 07.07.2011, pursuant to the orders passed by the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka in a writ petition filed by the Beyond Carlton Trust, the Government of Karnataka issued a notification specifying the measures to be followed by builders, owners and residents to prevent fire hazards in High Rise Buildings i.e., buildings measuring 15mts and above in height. One such measure notified, which we are all aware of, is the requirement to receive Fire Safety Certificate, which we generally refer to as the NOC from the Fire Department before the BBMP can issue an occupancy certificate. The builder usually takes on this responsibility. But, what happens once an OC is procured, by which time, the builder would have exited the project? Interestingly, the notification goes beyond ensuring fire safety after occupancy as well.

surat fire

Surat Fire Accident 2019

Residents’ obligations

Under the notification, to ensure regular compliance with fire safety laws, there are three main obligations that have been imposed on residents and resident welfare associations which come into play once the residents start occupying the apartments. Firstly, the Fire Safety Certificate issued by the Fire Department must be renewed once in two years with the BBMP. Secondly, residents must ensure that biennial checking is conducted by a Fire Officer along with a representative of the Resident Welfare Association. At this juncture, a report will be formulated by the Fire Department explaining the compliances and lapses, if any. Thirdly, once in two years, an affidavit explaining the working condition of the fire safety system along with the report of the Fire Officer must be furnished by the Resident Welfare Association to the Fire Department and the BBMP. Surprise checking could also be conducted by inspecting officer nominated by the Fire Department once in two years to ascertain the same. It is to be noted that, the obligation to renew the certificate, conduct biennial checking and submit an affidavit of compliance has been conferred on the Residents and the Resident Welfare Association as well. Failure to comply could result in consequences under the law. 

Consequences

If the lapses notified in the report are either not rectified or if rectified, are not informed to the officer of the fire department within 3 months of such notice, not only will BESCOM disconnect electricity connections to the building but, the building itself will be sealed to prevent a fire hazard. BBMP will also have to suspend the Occupancy Certificate issued. Ingress and egress to the building, including to the residents will be allowed only after the lapses notified in the report are rectified. Furthermore, the Occupancy Certificate will have to be procured afresh from BBMP only after producing the certificate of compliance issued by the Fire Officer. Failure to comply with the notifications can result in Fire Department launching criminal prosecution under the provisions of the applicable laws. 

Conclusion

Whenever people come across gruesome accidents, whether it be the fire accident at Carlton Towers or the apartment fire near Bannerghatta, Bangalore they tend to assume that they will never be at the receiving end. However, residents and owners can no longer avoid accountability for fire hazards that may or may not occur due to their neglect and ignorance by merely blaming the builder. As a result of this notification dated 07.07.2011 being issued, even if you as a resident may avoid fire hazards, accountability under law cannot be escaped.

____________________________________________

Written by Sai Apabharna

Apabharna is a member of the Executive Council at Beyond Carlton. She is an Associate Partner at Factum Law, Bengaluru. As an advocate, she represents her clients including multinational companies, individuals and start-ups in various courts of law, tribunals and alternative dispute resolution forums on issues ranging from company law, real estate law and intellectual property rights.

 

 

 

24
Sep

BEYOND CARLTON — Apartment Fire Safety Guidelines

Know the basics of Fire Safety

1. Know all fire risks @ home & put in place systems to eliminate the risks

2. Know how to use fire extinguishers, types & techniques to put out small fires

3. Every home can have an all-purpose extinguisher & first aid burns kit

4. Have a home emergency escape plan ready

5. Wherever you go – be aware of fire exits/ egress routes, and evacuation basics

6. Keep exits clear for enabling a smooth and safe egress from fire, smoke, fumes or panic during the time period necessary for escape.

7. In case of an uncontrolled fire, quickly move out to a safe place/emergency assembly area

8. Know the fire emergency numbers – 101 & your nearest fire station

9. If you discover fire – Break the glass of the nearest fire alarm button to alert all /  Try to extinguish the fire with the nearest extinguisher or evacuate without panicking.

Familiarize yourself with all signage in apartments for fire extinguishers, fire exits, escape plans, assembly areas & fire safety instructions posted in lobby/prominent locations. This will be useful in case of a fire emergency

Please reach out to the Apartment Manager/ Fire RRT Team to understand, improve, engage  & operate  with – the apartment layout & operational fire fighting systems, demarcated fire assembly points, fire training drills, evacuation plans & emergency procedures

In event of a fire, do not panic
  • Evacuate to the safe area and do not stay in closed rooms
  • Use wet cloth/ Stay low below the smoke to escape
  • Do not use the lifts in case of fire
  • Know the Stop Drop Roll technique
  • Follow apartment specific emergency procedures following familiar techniques
  • Support evacuation of children, elderly & persons with special needs

what to do in case of a fire?

Role of  RWA Manager in Apartment Fire Safety
  • Ensure all Association policies & compliance mandates (national building codes, municipal by-laws, fire safety act etc) on Fire Safety are implemented & maintained with due diligence
  • Keep handy the Fire Fighting Services emergency number & AMC vendor numbers
  • Ensure all cars/ other parked vehicles are removed for the quick passageway of the fire engine.
  • Plan beforehand (from the time a call is made till the fire engines arrive) – from which entrance & the path the fire engine will take inside the complex to reach the affected area. (This is in the event the apartment has multiple access gates)
  • Ensure the whole team works with internal constituted/ designated Fire response team to ensure speedy & effective coordination & rescue of fellow residents
  • Ensure all staff & residents teams are familiar with Fire Safety Emergency Procedures
Responsibilities of Managing Committee / Association

Managing committees of RWA / AoAs are responsible for ensuring all compliances are met & implemented. Following things should be planned as part of association activities – both, as compliance mandate, as well as best practices to be followed for our own safety

1. Be aware of all building regulations on fire compliance & safety. (as per National Building Code, Municipal Byelaws, Fire Act etc & latest department notifications). Ensure compliances are met at the building handover stage, as well as post the same for maintenance & upgrades.

2. Ensure Fire System AMCs & Periodic schedule of Maintenance are in place

3. Ensure audits & checks are performed and fire systems are 100% working

4. Engage on Fire Inspection Mandate, ensure compliance & Take Action on fixing Gaps. Renew fire clearance certificates

5. Develop a fire safety evacuation & drill plan for systematic execution on a quarterly/ biennial basis

6. Ensure there is a plan for training – all association staff – on Fire safety, Evacuation procedures

7. Plan Resident training as part of annual activity

    1. Walkthrough of fire fighting systems,
    2. Basic fire safety training with dos & don’ts, usage of extinguishers, evacuation drills etc
    3. Maintain necessary self-help kits & equipment on standby for emergencies. (stretchers/ first aid kids/evacuation chairs etc.)

8. Endeavour to create Apartment level Fire Subcommittee/ Fire-Warden/ Rapid Response Teams. Involve as many volunteer residents.

9. Maintain connect with local fire service stations for services/awareness/information/training etc.

10. Create awareness on adherence to NBC guidelines on fire safety for buildings – keeping lobby areas free, ensuring alternate fire exits, preventing unwarranted elevation changes in the building etc.

11. Observe & create awareness – during Fire safety commemorative days/ Instructions on Festive Fires etc.

To Conclude

SAFETY IS EVERYBODY’S JOB – PRACTICE FIRE SAFETY. Do we always have to learn about safety and prevention from accidents only? Can we become proactive and work on a sound plan that minimizes the probability of or prevents accidents from happening at all? The recent fire in an apartment in Bengaluru has again brought the issue of apartment & resident/citizen fire safety to the forefront. While we become more aware of the issues surrounding the same, the learnings from this incidence must be fed back to ourselves so that such accidents can be prevented from recurring.  In addition to the various levels of responsibility for apartments & residents to ensure fire safety, Beyond Carlton would like to highlight the 3 key aspects of being fire safe –  Preparedness, Emergency Action & Post Emergency Support. Refer to the below annexure for the same. This we feel will play a major role in not only minimizing loss of life or property but also take it a step further to prevent the same.

Authored by Team – Beyond Carlton 2021-22

Fire safety in apartment

Fire Safety Guidelines

Annexure

 

 

 

9
Jun

7 Top Fire Safety Measures To Be Observed While Using Oxygen Concetrators

Oxygen concentrators are widely used in hospitals as well as households these days due to the current pandemic situation. Oxygen concentrators act as a life support system by providing supplemental oxygen. Oxygen concentrators can act as a life-support system but can prove disastrous if handled carelessly. Hence it is highly recommended to understand the fire safety measures before using oxygen concentrators.  It will go a long way in ensuring the safety of oneself & our fellow beings, providing hassle-free handling always.

1. No Smoking in and around the vicinity

It is very important not to smoke or allow smoking while using oxygen concentrators in the vicinity. Smoking during oxygen therapy results in injury. DO NOT SMOKE INDOORS for everyone’s well-being. Make sure that the oxygen concentrator & its accessories are away from the smoking zone.

2. Keep Oxygen Concentrators away from open fire & flame

Yet another factor to be careful about is the usage of oxygen concentrators in & around the kitchen. It is highly dangerous due to the exposure to open fire & the heat generated in the kitchen due to the continuous use of the stove.  It is best to use a microwave while on oxygen concentrators; however, if you are using a stove to cook, it is very important to maintain a distance of at least 3 meters between fire, oxygen concentrator & its accessory.

3. Avoid Deodorants/Aerosol products/paints/gasoline/solvents

Oxygen concentrators should be handled carefully and should be kept away while using highly inflammable products like hairsprays, deodorants, body sprays & alcohol-based sanitisers.

4. Avoid Electric razors/Hair-dryers/Oil/Petroleum-based products/Electric toys

One must remember not to use electric razors & hair-dryers while on oxygen concentrators as it could ignite & cause burns. Avoid applying oil-based toiletries & petroleum jelly, as in certain conditions, the combination of oxygen, oil-based toiletries & a spark from an electrical appliance, such as an electric blanket, hair-dryer, electric razor could ignite & cause burns. It is always better to use water-based cosmetics. Keep toys with electric motors & electric toothbrushes at least 2 meters away.

5. Secure storage of Oxygen Concentrators

Oxygen concentrators should always be stored in a safe, secure, and upright position, especially during travel. This helps in avoiding damages to the equipment & avoiding injury. Always store oxygen concentrators in a clean, clutter-free environment away from dust, yet in a well-ventilated spot to avoid the equipment from getting hot.

6. Proper earthing of Oxygen Concentrators

One should always check for proper earthing of an oxygen concentrator. It should never be connected to extension cords or power boards.  It becomes highly imperative to inspect & service oxygen concentrators periodically to avoid unprecedented accidents. Oxygen concentrators must be kept away from children’s reach & constant vigil is compulsory. Always use an outlet that is NOT controlled by a wall switch.

7. Install Fire Alarms

Installing fire alarms is a wise idea, especially while putting oxygen concentrators to use. In the eventuality of a fire, it helps as a warning, allowing you to have a quick escape plan.

Every piece of equipment is designed to make it convenient for the users. So is an oxygen concentrator. Oxygen is like fuel to fire. So, an oxygen-rich environment poses threat in areas closer to fire & smoke. It is entirely in our hands to make oxygen concentrators user-friendly, safe & convenient by following certain important guidelines. The sole aim of this article is to create awareness among people on fire safety measures while using oxygen concentrators.

Follow fire safety measures …safeguard yourself, your near &dear ones.

Image source: Times Of India

References:

https://www.precisionmedical.com/blog/7-tips-for-maintaining-oxygen-concentrator-safety/

https://provider.inogen.com/

http://islandhomemedical.com/

https://www.oxygenconcentratorstore.com/blog/tips-for-bathing-while-using-an-oxygen-concentrator/#:~:text=Even%20though%20your%20oxygen%20concentrator,while%20getting%20your%20oxygen%20therapy.

 

_______________________________________________________________

 

Written by Vidhya Renganathan

Vidhya is a content writer based in Chennai, always envisions the betterment of society & captures it in writing.

 

 

 

 

 

Esic hospital
5
Feb

City Fire Management Needs To Move To Local Bodies

In India, the 74th  Constitutional Amendment Act(CAA) came into effect in June 1993.  This was an important step towards decentralization of democracy. Through this Act, Urban Local Bodies(ULBs) like the Municipal Corporations of various cities, were empowered to perform 18 functions. These functions include Roads, Parks, Water Supply, Public Health, Waste Management & Crematoriums. One of the 18 functions listed is Fire Services

Each State was expected to enact legislation to implement the 74th CAA.  However, the State Governments got flexibility in terms of the functions that had to be devolved, the nature of devolution & the timing. Even after 27 years of the passing of the 74th CAA, the implementation in the States has been patchy.

On Fire Services, in most of the States, the function is still centralized and not devolved to the ULBs. The current status is that Fire services in 7 states namely, Maharashtra, Haryana, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab & Rajasthan are under the respective Municipal Corporations. In the remaining States & UTs, it is under the Home Department.

What this means is that some of the top cities in India like Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad & Kolkata do not have control of their Fire Services directly. The ULB of these cities cannot be held accountable for Fire Safety.  This is unlike how Fire Services is handled in other major cities of the world like New York City or London. 

There are several advantages of a City having direct control of Fire Services:

  • Cities are at significantly higher risk of Fire Accidents – population increases, old building with outdated fire safety norms & larger number of public spaces. They need a disproportionate focus of Fire Services, which is possible if they control that function directly
  • Agility in increasing the fire safety capacity – fire stations & fire personnel based on the growth of the city
  • Ability to take quick action against violators of fire safety norms
  • Create & implement a long term plan specific to the city – the example of the 5-year Bengaluru Fire Safety Blueprint prepared by Beyond Carlton with Karnataka Fire Services is a good example of that. 
  • Work on PPP models with leading Corporates in the City – as creating a Fire Safe City is important for the Corporates.
fire safety blueprint

Launching the 5-Year Fire Safety Blueprint for Bengaluru with Shri M.N.Reddi DG&IGP and Shri Soumendu Mukherjee IGP of The Karnataka Fire & Emergency Services

It is important, that we as citizens, demand the devolution of the Fire Services function to the ULBs, in more States of India, to comply with the 74th CAA. This will help improve the overall Fire Safety record of the Cities and thereby continue to be a magnet for investment & talent.

Image source: Google Images – ESIC Fire Accident

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About The Author

Gopal

Gopal Devanahalli is a member of the Beyond Carlton Executive Council. He currently works with the Manipal Group and has over 28 years of professional services experience, including 15+ years at Infosys. Gopal has an Engineering Degree in Computer Science, from BITS, Pilani, and a PGDM from IIM, Calcutta. In addition, he has done a Public Policy Course at The Takshashila Institution.

 

11
Nov

Diwali 2020 – Quick Fire Safety Tips That May Come In Handy

This time though most of us are home, the festival of lights, may not be celebrated like we usually do. But it’s a day to rejoice despite the fact that the whole world is reeling with a pandemic. It’s still a day to bring in a lot of positivity and hope in our homes and a celebration of good over evil.

While we may or may not burst crackers this time, it’s critical to take into consideration the fire safety aspects of our homes as we celebrate by lighting diyas and candles all around the house. Fire safety, that we normally put it to the back burner, but these simple tips would help you stay safe.

Here are some quick tips to note
Lighting diyas/ candles
  • While lighting diyas avoid wearing loose clothes, tuck in your shirt with long sleeves. If you are wearing a saree or dupatta, make sure the ends are tucked in. Do not wear long flowy clothes and synthetic material.
  • Make sure that the candle/ diya is placed on a sturdy surface and not placed near curtains or other materials that can catch fire.
  • Also, avoid lighting the candles or diya near electrical wires.
  • Make sure diyas/ candles are not placed near containers that have alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  • Never leave your house or lock the house while you have lit candles/ diyas inside the house. Never leave an open flame unattended.
Kids fire safety
  • Make sure all the lighters and matches are away from kids’ reach
  • Keep the doorways clean and clutter-free so that the kids do not trip and fall down on diyas.
  • Educate your kids about fire safety
Kitchen fire safety
  • Do not leave cooking unattended. Make sure an adult is always there to supervise the cooking
  • If there is a grease fire/ if a pan catches fire, close the pan with a metal lid and turn off the stove. Never add water to a grease fire.
  • Make sure you have first aid kits for accidental burn injuries.
Firecrackers safety

Though firecrackers are banned in most of the states, here are some tips that can help people who live in states where firecrackers are not banned.

  • Always buy branded firecrackers from licensed shops that are regulated by the government
  • Store crackers in a safe place.
  • Keep a bucket of sand and water near the place where you are bursting crackers
  • Always wear cotton clothes while bursting crackers, as clothes made of silk, nylon or polyester can catch fire easily
  • Burst crackers in an open area and never indoors
  • Avoid alcohol while bursting crackers.

What can you do when you get an accidental burn? (check this link)

 

Ahmedabad Hospital Fire
22
Sep

Hospital fires in India – Are We Ready To Handle This?

Recently, a fire broke out in a Covid-19 hospital in Ahmedabad, Gujarat claiming the lives of 8 Coronavirus patients. This isn’t a solitary incident of hospital fires in India claiming lives that could have been prevented had the proper norms been observed by hospitals.

There has been a clear lack of norms and safety measures when it is to do with preventing fires in hospitals. According to the norms, all the buildings in India are expected to follow the National Building Code of India established by Bureau of Indian Standards.

Hospital fire safety in India

Hospital fire safety audits

It is mandatory for buildings in the country to conduct a fire safety audit every year (It may vary from state to state). It involves a fire safety officer visiting a building to check whether the buildings have all the fire safety measures in place in case a mishap happens. (Though it varies from state to state in India, some states may have external certification agencies or self assessments)

A set of safety guidelines was published by the National Disaster Management Authority for hospitals in February 2016 and yet we see the incidents of hospital fires on a daily basis. It has been observed that one of the major reasons behind hospital fires in India is an electric short circuit and improper storage of highly inflammable medical supplies. Also, in most of the major hospital fires in India, it was found that hospitals did not have safety measures like fire exits, no fire compliance certificate from relevant authorities and more. This indicated that these were, in a way, man-made accidents and could have been prevented. 

Why do we still have fire mishaps in hospitals?

Most hospitals in India lack basic fire extinguishing equipment like sprinklers and fire extinguishers are often old and in unusable condition. Even the roads inside big hospitals, which should be 6 metres wide according to the NDMA guidelines, are blocked with parked vehicles. If a fire breaks out, the fire tenders cannot even enter. What makes hospital fires worse is the fact that in the event of a fire, most of the victims are immune-compromised, on life support or unable to move on their own. 

The responsibility of safeguarding hospitals and deploying fire safety measures and ensuring that the equipment like fire extinguishers, sprinkler, hose pipes, etc is upon hospitals as well as building contractors. The onus also lies on the government bodies to make the process of NOC and other necessary compliance easier. 

Hospital fires in India are a serious issue that is often neglected. It requires collective efforts from authorities, hospitals, contractors and architects to ensure that fire safety measures are deployed to contain the fire, as swiftly as possible. Hurdles like making sure that highly inflammable hospital supplies are stored in an appropriate manner. Hospital staff must receive specialized training to fight incidents of fire. 

We urge all concerned to address this with the seriousness it requires.

 

 

Freak Fire
8
Jun

Spike in home freak accidents during lockdown says the surgeons

According to a recent report published in Bangalore Mirror, there is a surge in freak accidents at home. Surgeons are getting 15-20 cases a month during the lockdown when compared to just 1-2 cases in the past. The report claims that there have been freak incidents in the kitchen involving burn injuries. Some incidents involved electrical shocks while people try to fix malfunctioning electrical equipment at home. Some of these incidents have resulted in 2nd-degree burns.

Why is there a sudden surge?

The sudden increase in the home freak incidents is due to frustration, excitement, lack of availability of labour, anxiety and stress.

Were our homes safer before the lockdown?

While the increase in freak incidents is worrying, our homes weren’t safe even before the lockdown. According to the NCRB report 2018, residential fires accounted for 56 per cent of all the fire accidents.

What are the causes of residential fires?

Cooking fires – Unattended cooking, pans catching fire, hot oil catching fires.

Electrical equipment – Overloading of sockets, using heavy equipment in extension cords, frayed wires.

Smoking in bedrooms

Candles/ diyas or incense sticks

Children playing with fire

LPG gas bursts – It is one of the major causes of deaths due to accidental fires in India. According to NCRB report 2018, as many as 2672 people, of which 1967 were women, were killed in cooking gas explosions.

Apart from this, our modern homes have a lot of highly combustible materials like upholstery, decorative material and also electrical gadgets.

In India, most of the home fire accidents are caused by cooking fires and electrical short-circuit.

Here are some useful resources that could help prevent fires:

How to deal with burn injuries

Home fire safety checklist

A complete guide to electrical fire safety

LPG fire safety

Image source: Flickr

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