Fire Safety In India

With the increasing number of fire accidents reported every year in urban areas, fire safety in India has become a cause of concern. Fire is a severe hazard to a range of constructions in India. These fires kill and injure numerous people every year, but not only that, they also destroy a large amount of property and hence impact the economy. According to the latest release from the National Crime Records Bureau of India, 330 people died in commercial building fires in 2019, while fatalities for residential or dwelling buildings were much higher at 6,329.

As the country is facing many hazards like biological, chemical etc, knowing about fire incidents and fire safety is important from UPSC mains point of view. In this article you will read about the causes and measures to be taken to control these fires and also the current rules and regulations for fire safety in India.

To read about Biological Disaster Management, visit the link.

Facts related with Fire Safety in India

  • According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in 2015 a total of 17,700 people died due to fire accidents, i.e 48 people every day.
  • Of those who died, 62% were women.
  • According to India Risk Surveys 2018, outbreak of fire poses risks to business continuity and operations and ranks India at 3rd position in fire incidents, especially in Northern and Western regions of India.
  • NCRB data says Maharashtra and Gujarat, the two most highly urbanised states, account for about 30% of the country’s fire accident deaths.
  • Most fire accidents, according to past incidents, take place due to three major reasons:
    • Electrical short circuit or gas cylinder/stove burst
    • Negligence of human
    • Ill-formed habits

Provisions Related To Fire Safety In India

  1. Constitutional Provision: Fire Services is a State subject and is included as a Municipal function in the XII Schedule of the Constitution of India under Article 243 (W).
  2. National Building Code of India 2016 (Fire and Life safety): The National Building Code of India covers the detailed guidelines for construction, maintenance and fire safety of the structures.
  • The National Building Code (NBC) of India is published by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) of India and it is a “recommendatory document”.
  • Guidelines are issued to the States to incorporate the recommendations of National Building Code into their local building bylaws which makes the recommendations of National Building Code of India as mandatory.
  • The advisories are issued to all the State Governments to incorporate and implement the latest National Building Code of India 2016 Part – IV “Fire & Life Safety” in their building bye-laws, by the office.
  • The BCI broadly covers the three areas:

Fire prevention: Covers aspects of fire prevention caused due to the design and construction of buildings and describes the various types of building materials and their fire rating.

Life Safety: Covers life safety provisions in the event of fire and similar emergencies, also addressing construction and occupancy features that are necessary to minimise danger to life from fire, smoke, fumes or panic.

Fire Protection: Covers important components and guidelines for selecting the correct type of equipment and installations meant for fire protection depending upon the classifications and type of buildings.

  1. National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA): It has laid down requirements for fire safety in public buildings, including hospitals, which incorporate elements of the NBC. This also includes design guidelines on maintaining minimum open safety space, protected exit mechanisms, dedicated staircases, and crucial drills to carry out evacuations.
  2. Oil Sector Safety Institution (OISD): Oil Industry Safety Directorate (OISD) under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas formulates and coordinates the implementation of a series of self-regulatory measures aimed at enhancing the safety in the oil & gas industry in India.
  3. The Model Building Bye Laws, 2016: Devised by the Ministry of Urban Development it states the regulatory mechanism and engineering parameters to keep in mind before starting any construction project in India. It also mentions that point-specific responsibility for all fire-related clearance rests with the Chief Fire Officer(CFO).

Concerns Of The Fire Safety Systems In India

  • There is a lack of unified fire services in some states in India, which offer all the necessary requirements and training in firefighting.
  • Violation of safety norms and lack of standardisation and regulation is a major cause of fire accidents, as large scale construction of false roofs in commercial buildings and multiplexes is against the national building construction code.
  • Lack of proper organisational structure, training, and opportunity for firemen to advance their careers, in India.
  • Inadequate modern equipment and their scaling, authorization & standardisation.
  • Inappropriate and inadequate funding, which inhibits technological progression for fire fighting. For example- urban cities have failed to invest in LIDAR-based (Light Detection and Ranging) technologies that can be used to aerially keep a track of setbacks and the presence of fire exits.
  • Obscure provisions of fire safety audit in terms of scope, objective, methodology and periodicity of a fire safety audit.
  • Unavailability of training institutions has a bearing on real-time environmental understanding.
  • Inadequate infrastructural facilities – fire stations and accommodation of personnel etc.
  • Vulnerability analysis in many scenarios is mostly not done.
  • Lack of Public awareness about the fire safety rules (DOs and DONTs) and regular mock exercises and evacuation drills are also not conducted.
  • Lack of Uniform fire safety legislation e.g.Recently few states such as Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala were found not complying with the NBC

Measures Needed To Enhance The Fire Safety System

  • Mandatory compliance is required by the State governments with safety features for any institution handling patients or giving care.
  • Certification of facilities through third-party audits can be made compulsory to eliminate conflicts of interest involving official agencies.
  • Modernisation of Fire safety equipment: Financial support and assistance in augmenting and modernising the fire departments should be provided.
  • Awareness among citizens about fire prevention and protection measures should be done by organising a fire fighting workshop once in six months in localities/Mohallas/schools with the involvement of local councillors/elected representatives.
  • Periodic Auditing of critical Fire service departments (like high rise buildings, multiplexes in congested areas) and taking appropriate actions against erring establishments.
  • Make heavy fire liability insurance compulsory for all public buildings, which would offer protection to occupants and visitors and bring about external inspection of safety.

Way Forward

By 2050, almost 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. India and all countries around the world must see the importance of fire safety when building and extending cities. Strict implementation of laws and a holistic development which addresses economic growth, employment, social change, economic deprivation, environmental degradation, waste management etc is the need of the hour.

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