Many Government Buildings Lack Fire Safety

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   (2012-07-16 00:00:00)

A majority of government buildings, including the Secretariat, have turned into potential fire-traps, given the little or no attention paid to fire safety measures.

This alarming aspect came to light when the Andhra Pradesh Fire Services Department carried out fire risk assessment in all the government buildings.

The exercise was taken up after a major fire broke out in Maharashtra’s Secretariat – Mantralaya -- snuffing out the lives of five persons.

Defunct equipment

Officials say the State Assembly, Chief Minister’s camp office, Gagan Vihar, Secretariat, Andhra Pradesh Public Service Commission building, Jubilee Hall and Legislative Council, among others, were inspected by special teams constituted by the fire department after the Mantralaya incident in Mumbai and a major fire in Jubilee Hall in Public Gardens here.

These buildings are under the maintenance of Roads & Buildings Department.

The National Building Code (NBC) stipulates that high-rises should have hose-reel, yard hydrant, smoke detectors, water storage tanks, extinguishers and sprinklers.

But a majority of the high-rises housing government offices lack even basic fire safety systems. Even the fire extinguishers in a few offices have become defunct.

Potential trap

Barring ‘D’ and ‘C’ blocks in the Secretariat, all the blocks lacked safety measures. Fire extinguishers that were installed in a few blocks were out of order but were replaced recently when it was brought to the notice of the officials concerned. Only the CM’s office has functioning smoke detectors and extinguishers.

“It would be a disaster in case fire breaks out in any of the government offices located in high-rises,” observes a senior fire official. Employees working in these offices were unaware of the alternative escape routes and there were no building plans ready to carry out fire-fighting operations effectively.

Fire authorities say a detailed report highlighting lack of safety measures would be submitted to the government shortly. “We have already given a report to the General Administration Department (GAD) listing the deficiencies found in various blocks in Secretariat,” they explain.

When contacted, Roads & Buildings Department officials say that proposals were sent to the government requesting it allocate funds for installing fire safety systems. “We are waiting for the government’s response,” adds a superintendent engineer.