Fire tower versus fire evacuation lift

Let’s compare which is a better evacuation solution during fire emergencies in high-rises.

Buying a house in Mumbai is an aspiration for millions. A developing infrastructure, a secure work life, better education and healthcare facilities make the city amazing to live in. However, over the past couple of years, a question has been raised on the city’s fire safety and evacuation solution due to its constant vertical development. In the past five months, there were around eight major fire incidents in Mumbai’s high-rise buildings. In each incident, the building’s firefighting systems failed and there were no evacuation solutions.

In 2022, there were a total of 1,996 fire calls reported in Mumbai, including a level 4 call (major fire), one level 3 call (medium fire), 12 level 2 calls (also medium fire) and 26 level 1 calls (small fires). According to an RTI information, 48,434 fire calls were received between 2008 and 2018. Of these, 1,568 were from high-rise apartments. A total of 609 people lost their lives and property damages attuned to Rs 89 crore. The common factor in all these fire accidents was the challenges faced by the firefighters to reach higher floors and evacuate people on time. Though we have fire ladders, fire lifts and fire towers as safety equipment, the question is regarding their relevance and accountability during such fire incidents.

See also: Importance of fire evacuation lifts in Mumbai’s high-rises

Of all the available options, fire evacuation lifts have been found to be a more effective evacuation solution than fire towers. Here are the reasons:

  1. The cabin of a fire evacuation lift is made of non-combustible material and all the enclosed panels are filled with ceramic wool with a two-hour fire safety On the contrary, due to the lack of specifications, builders often surpass the norms for fire towers, designing them in the manner of a regular staircase. In addition, no fire-resistant doors are provided.
  1. The two-way communication system of the lift makes it easy for a person standing on any floor to communicate with the lift operator during fire accidents. However, fire towers lack call buttons, making communication difficult during fire emergencies.
  1. If the diesel generator and primary power supply fail, fire evacuation lifts can be operated for 30 minutes using the battery backup. Fire towers can become an impediment for children and senior citizens.
  1. During fire emergencies, the fire evacuation lift has a trap door on the roof to facilitate However, there is no secondary provision in a fire tower.
  1. The landing and car door in a fire evacuation lift has a two-hour fire-rated vision panel, which helps the fireman avoid fatigue. Due to the lack of such vision panels in the fire tower, the fireman cannot view the floor condition from the lift car and step in. They are frequently unaware of the smoke situation on the floor, which causes fatigue.
  1. The fire evacuation lift has an IoT (Internet of Things)-based control panel that sends automatic notifications to the nearest fire department, society members and the residents. The system’s features enable the user and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to access real-time data, including total operating hours, day-by-day operating hoursand fault history. Everyone, from the users to the fire department, is warned by the faster and simple communication process. However, all these features are missing in a fire tower.
  1. The fire evacuation lift can accommodate 8-15 people, whereas, in a fire tower it becomes difficult to accommodate people due to the evacuation rush and crowd.
  1. The fire evacuation lift can evacuate 80 to 90 people in 30 minutes without any obstacles. A fire tower depends on the speed of an individual, making it challenging for senior citizens and people with medical conditions.
  1. The fire evacuation lift’s capacity is a minimum of 1050 kg/15 person, whereas a fire tower has a loading capacity of 545 kg.
  1. As per the law, firefighters cannot use the fire tower to reach higher floors. They must stop two floors below the affected area and use the staircase to reach the other floors. A fire evacuation lift is a saviour for firefighters as they can use it to reach any floor, especially the higher floors.

The intensity of fire accidents in Mumbai is certainly on the rise and it is a critical need to deploy better fire evacuation measures. The Maharashtra Energy Department has issued an advisory that all high-rises in the state that are equal to or taller than 70 meters must have a Fire Evacuation Lift (FEL) to speed up the evacuation process during fire emergencies.

It is up to the builders and residents to ensure that these measures are met in time to avoid loss of life and property.

(The author is managing director, Spartan Fire Evacuation Lift. Views expressed are personal)

Got any questions or point of view on our article? We would love to hear from you. Write to our Editor-in-Chief Jhumur Ghosh at [email protected]


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