Together we can #BeatTheFire

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We the people of India would like to bring to your attention, the frequent outbreaks of Fire which pose a threat to the lives of our countrymen, while also hindering business continuity and operations. The India Risk Survey of 2018[1] has placed Fire in the third position, thus exposing the vulnerability and seriousness of the situation. Causing significant loss of life and property, Fire outbreaks are also a direct result of Non-Compliance with Fire Safety norms in Buildings and Structures, Commercial Sectors and Factories. The under-equipped Fire Services Department of India is also a major concern. The Government of India and its regulatory bodies have set Fire Safety norms, but implementing these is an arduous task. Vigilance towards the Fire Safety norms also pushes Fire's risk ranking from the fifth position to the third position in the year 2018.

Regular Fire-Related Disasters

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has recorded a total number of 1,13,961 Fire-related accidental deaths between 2010 and 2014- an average of 62 deaths per day. A detailed analysis of these deaths also indicates that only 1.42% of deaths took place in Factory Settings while the majority- a whopping 29% of deaths, took place in Residential Buildings. The alarming data also points fingers at the states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, which accounted for 54% of these fatalities. Mumbai alone has faced a 25-30% dip in business and footfalls due to the Kamala Mills Fire Incident, that killed 14 people.

Year  -  Deaths due to Fire
2001  -  22449
2002  -  21004
2003  -  19278
2004  -  18445
2005  -  19093
2006  -  19222
2007  -  20772
2008  -  22454
2009  -  23268
2010   -  24414
2011   -  24576
2012   -  23281
2013   -  22177
2014   -  19513
2015   -  17700
 
Total number of deaths due to fire: 317646

Source of Data: 'Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India' Report 2016, National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs.

Analysis of Mumbai Kamla Mills Fire Incident

Mumbai has seen 24,293 deaths alone - accounting for 21.3% of all Fire-related deaths. Having 154 Fire Stations only, Maharashtra has a Fire crisis, which has a requirement of 1231 Fire Stations. A 73% shortfall of Fire Stations leaves Maharashtra vulnerable to Fire Related Accidents, that can not be tackled effectively. Besides, we must not forget the 2011 AMRI Hospital Fire Incident that claimed the lives of 95 people, the 2019 Surat Coaching Center Fire Incident[2] that claimed the lives of 22 pupils and the Kota Fire Incident that claimed the lives of 2 while injuring at least 15 more people.

Grenfell Tower Incident and the Aftermath

The Grenfell Tower Fire Incident in the year 2017[3] must be iterated here. The Grenfell Tower Fire Tragedy is an example of how a developed nation can face Fire related atrocities when there remains an absence of proper Fire-Safety related Laws and Regulations. The Fire incident was the cause for 72 deaths, earning it the title of the most serious and the deadliest structural Fire incident in the United Kingdom. Starting from a malfunctioning freezer on the fourth floor, the Fire quickly rose upwards, owing to the combustible cladding material that was a part of the building's external insulation.

In the aftermath of this incident, the National Government of the United Kingdom has taken exemplary actions, which required all cladding materials used for building insulation to be of non-combustible nature. A nationwide warning was issued that required re-fabrication of buildings that boasted combustible insulation or cladding while it became a mandate to clad buildings with only Fire-Retardant, non-combustible cladding materials.

After the heart-wrenching incident at Grenfell, Nations all over the world started taking overnight precautions. It included Germany[4], evacuating buildings that have similar combustible building claddings. In Australia, the Government decided to remove all sorts of combustible building claddings while the Chamber of Engineers and the Chamber of Architects[5] of Malta urged the Maltese Government to revise the Fire Safety norms of the country. The Government of Netherlands maintained stringent Fire Safety Procedures to combat similar incidents.

The Grenfell Tower incident also has a two-phased public inquiry report which presents insightful propositions, about modern Fire Safety rules and regulations that enhances safety.

The National Building Code of India (2016) and a Request for Updation

The National Building Code of India (2016)[6] that contains the detailed guidelines of Fire Safety for buildings has been published by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for enhanced Building Safety. The NBC 2016 guidelines have been issued to the State Governments, who must implement and incorporate the latest National Building Code of India 2016 Part – IV "Fire & Life Safety" in their building bye-laws.

However, the recent fire incidents in different parts of India have well exposed and established the fact that these laws have not been followed. To keep up with the guidelines, it is necessary that Fire safety apparatuses are well-inspected, well-maintained and well documented! 

In India, where densely populated areas show uncontrollable vertical growth- do we not need to review the NBC 2016? Should it not be mandatory for Factories, Residential Structures and Commercial Buildings to be well equipped with every possible measure to #BeatTheFire?

Our demands are:

The numerous casualties and loss of properties and assets call for immediate actions to implement Precautionary Measures for enhanced Structural safety. The below-mentioned areas can prove to be highly effective against Fire-Safety related incidents:

  1. Guidelines that are mentioned under Chapter-IV of the National Building Code of India (2016) must be implemented as a mandatory measure for every building by law. The NBC (2016) must include suitable updation that is required in testing parameters to suit the Fire Safety needs of modern buildings, especially the ones which are situated in Densely Populated Areas.
  2. Demarcations of Fire Zones, classifications of buildings based on occupancy, restrictions on constructions of buildings in each Fire Zone, types of building construction according to fire resistance of the structural and non-structural components and other restrictions and requirements necessary to minimise danger of life from Fire, smoke, fumes or panic before the buildings can be evacuated must be made mandatory for the Operational and Maintenance Bodies of each structure. Timely Fire audits backed with coercive mechanisms in case of dereliction of obligations is sure to elevate the poor Fire Safety practices.

We, the citizens, trust that the Government of India, under your leadership, would consider the above demands and take necessary actions. We believe that, together, we can #BeatTheFire.

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[1] Ficci.in. (2019). [online] Available at: http://ficci.in/Sedocument/20450/India%20Risk%20Survey%20-%202018.pdf [Accessed 21 Oct. 2019].

[2] India, A. and India, P. (2019). Number Of Deaths In Surat Coaching Centre Fire Rises To 22. [online] NDTV.com. Available at: https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/number-of-deaths-in-surat-coaching-centre-fire-rises-to-22-2043016 [Accessed 21 Oct. 2019].

[3] Mynewsdesk. (2019). LATEST: Grenfell Tower fire investigation. [online] Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20180620052605/http://news.met.police.uk/news/latest-grenfell-tower-fire-investigation-250453 [Accessed 21 Oct. 2019].

[4] BBC News. (2019). German flats cleared amid cladding fears. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-40420954 [Accessed 21 Oct. 2019].

[5] Ltd, A. (2019). London fire: Architects back call for holistic review of building regulations. [online] Times of Malta. Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20170621183801/https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20170621/local/london-fire-architects-back-call-for-holistic-review-of-building.651314 [Accessed 21 Oct. 2019].

[6] Dgfscdhg.gov.in. (2019). National Building Code Of India (Fire and Life safety) | Directorate General Fire Services, Civil Defence & Home Guards Ministry Of Home Affairs Government of India. [online] Available at: https://dgfscdhg.gov.in/national-building-code-india-fire-and-life-safety [Accessed 21 Oct. 2019].