Fire Hazards in India: Issues and Management

In the last few months, frightening pictures of fire have come out from different parts of India. Whether it was the incidence of Ahmedabad or Vijayawada Covid-19 hospital with the death of 9 patients respectively or the death of 11 employees at the Srisailam Hydro Power Plant in Telangana or last year disastrous fire incidence of Anaj Mandi (45 deaths), Delhi Kiradi incident (9 deaths), Surat Coaching Institute fire (19 students killed) and other numerous incidences. At the same time, according to the data of the National Crime Bureau, 2015 more than 17700 or 48 people per day, lost their lives due to fire in the whole country. It is worth mentioning that as per the 2019 data of the Delhi Fire Department, they receive 85 daily and 31157 calls annually to extinguish the fire. It has increased by about 10 thousand calls compared to 2009. In this context considering Delhi as a sample site, we can understand the scenario of other parts of the country in terms of fire. All these points reflect the disregard of fire safety norms in India and the problem of increasing arson day by day, as well as giving evidence of fire susceptibility of Indian urban areas.

The journey of Fire as a Resource to Disaster:

Two major factors, direct and indirect, turn fire into a disaster. Short circuits, gas cylinder explosions, and human negligence are the major direct factors. Indirect causes include illegal commercial activities in residential areas, Violation of building and fire safety guidelines, shortage of modern equipment, firefighters, fire station and infrastructure in the fire department (According to a report of the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, a total of 8599 fire stations are needed in the country, 5.6 lakh firefighters, 2.2 lakh firefighting equipment’s and 9.3 thousand fire engines are required). Also, the delayed arrival of a fire brigade, the contract-based appointment of the fire brigade with less money and life safety measure, unplanned urbanization and urban expansion, number of rising skyscrapers (more than 15 meters), Non-availability of fire safety resources with the general public and the lack of awareness are the major causes.

To avoid this disaster, many laws, policy, and guidelines were issued in India from time to time at the level of the Central, State, and Union Territory Governments, like as The Boilers Act 1923, Cinematograph Film Rules 1948, The Oilfields (Regulation and Development) Act 1948, The Cinematograph Act 1952, The Mines Act 1952, Indian Electricity Rule 1956, Coal Mines Regulations 1957, Indian Electricity Act 2003, The Gas Cylinders Rule 2004, The Explosive Rule 2008, The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act 2010, The Explosive Rules 2008, National Building Code 2016, Formation of National Disaster Management Authority 2005, National Disaster Management Authority Guidelines for Fire Protection, etc. At the level of regional governments as well, such as Delhi Fire Preservation and Fire Safety Act 1986, Delhi Electricity Reform Act 2000, Delhi Fire Service Act 2007, Delhi Fire Service Rules 2010, etc. at the level of Delhi Government.

So the question arises that despite so many laws, guidelines, and institutions at different levels in this country, why is this disaster not controlled? Why is its number increasing every day? So the appropriate answer is the lack of a comprehensive and inclusive plan for fire protection at the individual, social and national levels.

Three-tier measures to control fire:

Whenever think a way to avoid this disaster, the simplest and most effective solution that observe is the awareness of every person about fire disaster. Anyway, what is the need for dependence on any government, institution, or other support systems to solve the disaster which we ourselves create due to our negligence?

First, at one’s own level – everyone can make a two-pronged effort to prevent the destruction of fire. First, pre-disaster management in which respectively knows what is fire as a disaster? What are the factors which make fire as a resource to disaster? After knowing this, then adopting a way of avoiding it at the level of self, family, and society. Second, major measures during the fire, such as, Attempts to control a fire, if the fire is not controlled, then immediately evacuate the place, If there is no way out, tie a wet cloth to your nose and mouth, So that harmful lethal gases like carbon monoxide, etc. cannot enter the body easily, contacting the fire brigade, and maintaining patience, etc. can be done.

Secondly, media, social organizations, NGOs, and other sectors can play a pivotal role in managing this disaster by conducting awareness campaigns among the people.

Thirdly, some major steps can be taken at the level of state and national governments and institutions, such as to measure the level of fire safety audit on annual basis, regular inspection of a non-objection certificate (NOC), and building safety standards of buildings. Special need for modernization of firefighters, fire-fighting equipment, and centers. With the use of Remote Sensing and Geographical Information System (GIS) India’s Fire Hazard Risk vulnerability assessment and mapping. Hearing of arson-related cases in fast track court, so that the victims can get compensation and justice quickly and punish the culprits. Implementation of the 13th Financial Commission fire safety suggestions. Special need for public awareness, under this, the inclusion of fire safety in school courses, awareness campaign at local, state, and national level and emphasizing fire safety practice. Infrastructure related changes in which, emergency lanes on roads, provision of the smart control room for emergency coordination of various departments and institutions. Preparation of National Digital Fire Database.

As the population is increasing day by day and there is a phase of urbanization, so this is an important time when we should focus on the fire safety of the nation. At the same time, there is a need to be strict on the violators of the safety instructions, only then a self-sufficient and safe India can be built.

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