The recent ghastly fire tragedy that occurred at the Kamala Mills compound in Mumbai should set the alarm bells ringing. This is yet another wake-up call for us to consider the issue of fire safety seriously.
Mumbai has witnessed a boom in restaurants, pubs, bars and lounges, with industrial areas being turned into commercial zones. The fire has the potential to grow on the surface area much faster. The biggest challenge is the need to evacuate instantly as the percentage of people in a commercial building is greater.
Once a restaurant is opened, the fire brigade officials visit the premises and give a no-objection certificate (NOC). After that, every year, restaurants renew their licences.
With the development of Tier II and Tier III cities, the growth is immense. There is a need to instil responsibility and for stricter laws to ensure effective implementation. The government should invest more in the education and training of the fire safety departments, especially in the Tier II and Tier III cities.
Fire safety measures to avoid such situations in future:
1. Installation of intelligent high-quality fire detection systems: Most important and the basis of any fire is its detection so that further action is initiated automatically and manually.
2. Intelligent high-quality escape route emergency lighting system for a compulsory escape route(s): Escape routes are becoming a challenge; they must be planned and installed.
3. Adequate fire-fighting systems: Sprinkler systems, hydrant systems, gas suppression systems, leak detection systems, mist systems and many other fire-fighting systems are available and must be employed as per the application.
4. A complete ban on fire jugglery at restaurants, award shows or any event.
5. A complete ban on flammable building material. Avoidance of flammable fabrics used in curtains, blinds, chairs, sofas and the like.
6. Use of flame retardant paints on the walls.
7. Very strict rule on use of fire retardant cable, its proper laying, use of cable trays, conduits and laying as per the permissible rules of high and low voltage systems.
8. Extensive use of circuit breakers of adequate specifications and load.
9. Extensive use of fire exit doors where applicable and strict no-change policy of these doors on change of interior design.
10. Complete ban on hookah lounges and bars which can cause fire: This is a must as we lack disposal etiquette and this will come after a lot of effort.
11. Strict fire training for building and restaurant staff.
12. Only registered companies should be allowed to install fire-prevention systems. The engineers must have certificated training.
13. More engagement of fire brigade department and OEMs where mutual meetings and training can take place.
14. Very strict maintenance of all fire systems.
15. Linking of main fire alarm systems of the building with the fire detection systems inside office, restaurant premises. It has been observed that the main fire alarm systems are not linked with fire systems in offices of the same buildings and thus there is a huge big disconnect.