Sunday, June 24, 2012

Learning from Disaster!

Failure is simply the non-presence of success. But a fiasco is a disaster of mythic proportions...Orlando Bloom

How perfect the words of great Hollywood star are when we read the news papers covering the infamous Mantralay Fire. Surprisingly many of the readers of our column have messaged me that this particular topic I should take keeping in mind the safety awareness of the buildings. Though I am not a safety expert or advisor yet safety is more a common sense when it comes to the buildings is a fact! With all due respect to the event as well the people who lost their lives & sure as usual the battle will go on for months about who was at fault & what should have been done yet when it comes to disasters its again proved how poorly we are placed in terms of infrastructure or action plan. Though one thing has to be complemented that at least more than 6000 people were there & majority of them could make their way out is a fact too. But loss of property & information in form of files & data, what about them? We have seen the footage of Japan's earth quake & the fires all over it caused & the way people faced it & the footage of our rulers head quarter! What a contradiction in the behavior! When there is a basic rule of not using lifts in case of fire still people were using lifts, such a mistake & no one to take a single point control or charge of the situation? Fire hydrants were too far away from such an important building & no fire water storage tanks for building as important as Mantralay!

To me there are two types in which we can categorize Disasters, man-made or created & natural! We all are helpless in avoiding the natural ones but the man made can surly be avoided at least the spread or damage of them can! Like occurring a fire is understandable enough but the cause why it occur & how it spread to such a large extent is definitely our own lacuna or ignorance towards this aspect.

On this back ground it’s interesting to see the scenario about the current building norms each building above 15 meter height i.e. more than four floors has to have two stair cases as well there are norms for building above height of 21 meters by virtue of which its mandatory to have a system of fire hydrant i.e. down take lines with fire hose reel at each floor & a underground as well over head water tank of capacity ranging from 10,000 lit to 50,000 lit depending up on the height of the buildings. High rise buildings i.e. above 24 meters height has to have fire pumps at ground level as well on terrace floor  & with separate electric supply of which electric meter is away from the regular meter boards. This is because of in case of fire first thing is to be done is shut of the electric supply & in that case the fire pumps should remain in operation. Also now the RCC frame work of the building too has to be designed pertaining the fire factor i.e. at least for four hours it should sustain the fire on parameter heat keeping in mind the structural stability. As this much time can be sufficiant to evacuate the building at such times.
For Commercial or Public  buildings like IT parks & Malls where central air conditioning has been provided the fire safety norms are more stringent with fire sensors & fire alarms with a net work of water sprinklers having supply from special fire water storage tanks is mandatory. There has to be smoke detectors as well camera surveillance as it’s the first few minutes right when the fire start are most important. It’s always easier to get the fire in control at its origin as the spread is small. Once it grows naturally its spread as well the heat the fire generates makes it more & more difficult with each passing hour to get control over it. By proper monitoring of the surveillance camera & smoke detectoers the fire can be immediately located & accessed. Also buildings with long & narrow passages for communication especially like Mantralay there has to be proper ventilation outlets as well fire exits at regular interval so the smoke can be drifted away as well people don’t have to cross a long distances at the time of disaster like fire or earth quake.  Periodical training to all the persons who are in any way related to the public building is a must thing. As one should not ignore even the slightest of smoke or any such thing if observed & here the training comes in picture.

Though we are not here to criticize Mantralay fire of Govt what we need to learn from this while buying any property may it be a commercial or residential, it’s very important to understand these norms for your own safety & ask the developer what care he is taking for the same. As I have repeatedly mentioned in this column, we are too fussy even buying vegetables but when it comes to home we are just looking for rate, location & superficial amenities & not the basic things like safety which are actually far more important in long term. And it’s not just the developer who is responsible as he may provide all the safety norms but if the residents don’t keep the same in maintained condition & are ignorant about the same, then also it’s a failure in case of disaster. I have observed in many of the societies the wiring isn’t tested for years & the fire hydrants have never been operated making them get locked in case of emergency. All such machinery/systems has to be periodically maintained & tested & that’s job of the people who resides there.

Btw just a thought, had such fire happened at any factory or commercial place then the owner of the place would have immediately charge sheeted by the police & all the Govt depts. & by now  the poor owner would have been behind the bar for negligence & all such charges, so whom they will be arresting in case of Mantralay fire? It’s easy to blame the Govt but how many of us have a proper well filled fire extinguisher in our home? We spend lacs of rupees on our interior but I have rarely seen a fire extinguisher in any of the home. How many of us have given training to our staffs or considered this aspect in our private offices? Or how many of us have gone up to the over head water tank of our building where we reside & check the connections & condition of water storage of fire water tank? Fire is just one cause of a disaster; there can be flood or earth quake or terrorist attack, have we prepared our self for the same? Sadly the answer is a big No !

Here we need to understand that safety is an attitude & not just a term! It’s our own attitude which will be deciding our faith at the time of such disasters, so instead blaming who is wrong & how to get aware about the place where we live or work & ensure that we live in a safe & healthy life without making us regret later is the right way to deal with Disasters!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Envo-Power Committee, Credai, Pune

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