Indian high-rises fail in fire safety compliance
A report submitted by the Ernakulam wing of the Department of Fire and Rescue Services to the Indian Government, said that as many as 928 high-rises in the district lacked proper fire safety mechanisms. Of them, 325 are in Kalamassery, while buildings that failed to comply with rules in the Ernakulam Assembly constituency came to 261. “Notices have been issued to the builders/owners of these buildings that come under categories like residential, educational, institutional, business, industrial, storage and hazardous. We have also alerted the local bodies concerned that follow-up action can be taken against buildings violating fire safety norms,” said JS Gojy, district fire officer.
Fire officials found that emergency exits in most buildings remained permanently blocked. The entry and exit points are not clearly demarcated. Similarly, fire fighting equipment, which acts as the first line of defence, has been found defunct thanks to lack of periodical maintenance.
It was also found that alterations had been made to buildings bypassing approved plans without obtaining no-objection certificates from the department. Moreover, several high-rises in the city lack fire fighting installations and enough space around them for movement of fire tenders. A similar situation is present in buildings where Notices of Compliance (NOCs) are not renewed annually.
“Owners of most of these buildings had either failed to renew no-objection certificates issued by the department or did not have the systems working despite having the certificates renewed. The apartment where a fire accident occurred recently was found to have renewed its certificate but the main valve activating the water supply line was found closed,” said Gojy.
The safety audit revealed that sprinkler valves in some buildings remained permanently closed. Water hose reels were found stuck and not working. Several apartment complexes were found to have not applied for renewal of NOCs even though rules insist they should be reviewed every year by the Fire Department.
VK Sankarankutty, president of All Kerala Apartment Owners’ Apex Association, reminded apartment buyers to check whether the builder has not only received NOC from the Fire Department but also to ensure that all fire-fighting systems are working properly. “Failure in periodic maintenance of systems will result in fire-fighting equipment turning defunct,” he reminded.
The Fire Department lacks teeth to act against violators as they can only issue notices for not complying with norms. They alert local bodies and the district administration to violations. Fire force personnel said local bodies need to cancel permits of buildings that lacked fire preparedness and systems.
However, TJ Vinod, Deputy Mayor, said the corporation could not carry out regular checks to find out if building owners complied with safety norms. “Before issuing completion certificates, we demand the fire NOC. The certificate will be issued only after receiving it. Further checks will not come under the purview of the local body,” he said.
Source: The Hindu