With skyscrapers increasingly coming up cities, an important concern for home buyers, is whether these buildings are safe, especially considering that several incidents of fire have been witnessed in metropolitan cities, in the last couple of years. A robust fire-fighting system is a crucial aspect of a building’s safety plan, regardless of whether it is a residential/commercial, hospital or educational premises. “In case of old buildings it is necessary for the fire department to take steps, to create awareness about fire safety among the residents of the building. In case of new constructions, it is imperative for developers to follow the legal framework for safety requirements. Apart from following the norms laid out by civic bodies for approvals, developers can add value, by selecting fire-resistant materials for constructions,” says Parth Mehta, chairman and managing director, Paradigm Realty.
Role of developers in fire safety
Aditya Kedia, managing director of Transcon Developers, points out that the major hazard in a tall residential tower, is the risk of a fire rapidly dispersing from one area to another, through elevator shafts, cavities of external walls, garbage chutes, storage areas or air-conditioning or extraction ducts. “To minimise this risk, residential towers have to be efficiently compartmentalised, as far as possible. Each home should comprise a separate ‘fire compartment’ that is secluded from its neighbours, by functional fire-resistant walls, windows, doors and access points. Regularly inspecting the fire alarm and emergency lighting systems in residential apartments and monitoring all the passageways and ducts that link the apartments and fitting them with fire-resistant coating, can also help,” Kedia explains.
Builders and architects have to plan for fire safety procedures, during the design/construction phase. Developers should ensure that the constructed complex is compliant, in terms of fire and smoke detection systems and fire alarm systems, adds Tushad Dubash, director, Duville Estates. “Fire extinguishing devices, whether it is portable fire extinguishers or automatic sprinkler systems, should be installed in the building including the parking areas. There has to be a clear evacuation plan and a fire safety plan, for preventing and extinguishing any accidental fire,” says Dubash. Apart from this, the real estate developer or residents’ welfare association, must conduct regular fire audits, to avoid any kind of untoward incidents. Developers must not hide any crucial information concerning hazards in the premises from the residents.
Kedia has several other suggestions, to ensure that any accident risk is effectively managed:
- Ensure there is no vehicle parked or any item stored that can hinder the entry of fire-fighting personnel/equipment into the premises.
- Developers/ residents should ensure the upkeep of fire refuge areas.
- Avoid obstacles in shared walkways.
- Refrain from connecting generators to another power source, such as power lines. The reverse electric flow could cause an electrical fire or even electrocute an unwary individual.
- Ensure that you do not overload electrical circuits.
- Never allow anyone to tamper with smoke detectors, fire alarms or sprinkler systems.
“Escaping unhurt in a crisis situation, requires stringent fire safety measures to be implemented, upheld and managed. In emergency situations there should be multiple escape routes available, in case the main route is blocked by smoke, gas or heat. The developers must also give due consideration, to how the emergency services can access parts of the building, to combat fire and/or rescue trapped inhabitants,” adds Kedia.
Fire safety precautions for home owners
Before finalising a home, buyers should look for security features, in addition to the other amenities on offer. “The building should have basic security components, like emergency alarms, fire extinguishers or automatic sprinklers and should be manned by well-trained security guards, who can help during an emergency. It is better to compromise on the carpet area of a flat, rather than opt for a property with no refuge area, especially in old constructions,” Mehta advises.
Once the Occupancy Certificate is received, the residents should conduct regular audits of fire-fighting equipment and practice fire drills. “Ensure that circuit breaker wires are not loose. Check if there are any signs of erosion on wire padding and insulators. Keep the areas around heat-generating kitchen equipment like oil burners, furnace, stove, etc., clear of flammable materials and trash. Trash should never be stored in the basement. Scrap that can fuel a blaze, should be immediately cleared,” concludes Kedia.
Maximising safety during fire hazards
- Property developers should consider legal and safety measures, while designing and planning projects.
- There are various clauses outlined by government bodies, with respect to fire safety, which developers should abide by.
- Fire-fighting equipment is useful, only if it works during an incident. Hence, it is crucial to ensure that such equipment is maintained well.