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Recent Fire Tragedies Highlight Need for Enhanced Fire Safety Regulations

Context:

Recent fire incidents at a gaming zone in Rajkot, Gujarat, and a children’s hospital in Delhi have resulted in at least 40 fatalities within 24 hours. These tragedies have brought attention to the need for stricter fire safety regulations and enforcement, especially in buildings prone to man-made disasters.

  • According to the latest Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India (ADSI) Report by the National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB), 7,435 people were killed in over 7,500 fire accidents in 2022.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Fire Safety Regulations in India
  2. Challenges Associated with Fire Safety in India
  3. About the National Building Code

Fire Safety Regulations in India

  • The National Building Code (NBC), established in 1970 and last updated in 2016, serves as India’s primary standard for fire safety.
  • It offers comprehensive guidelines on construction, maintenance, and fire safety for buildings.
  • State governments are mandated to integrate NBC recommendations into their local building bylaws, given that fire services fall under state jurisdiction.
  • The ‘Model Building Bye Laws 2016’ assists states and urban regions in formulating their building bylaws.
  • Additionally, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) issues guidelines on fire safety in residential, educational, and healthcare settings.

Challenges Associated with Fire Safety in India

  • Despite the existence of fire safety rules across all states, including the NBC, they are frequently disregarded due to the lack of uniform safety legislation and the NBC’s status as a “recommendatory document.”
  • Mandatory certifications are often neglected, and fire safety audits are not regularly conducted or enforced by local bodies.
  • Staff shortages aggravate the situation, leading to severe fire incidents like the Rajkot game zone and Delhi hospital fires.

The National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) underscores the importance of community resilience and adherence to safety norms.

About the National Building Code

  • The NBC prescribes achievable fire safety measures.
  • It designates fire zones, such as residential and educational areas, to prevent the coexistence of hazardous and non-hazardous structures.
  • Buildings are categorized into nine groups based on occupancy, including hotels, hospitals, and assembly buildings.
  • Emphasizes the use of non-combustible materials and a minimum 120-minute fire resistance for internal walls in staircases.
  • Specifies standards for maximum building height, floor area ratio, open spaces, and fire-resistant openings.
  • Highlights the necessity of flame-retardant electrical installations, with separate shafts for medium and low voltage wiring and false ceilings.
  • Requires all metallic items to be bonded to the earthing system.
  • Recommends an emergency power-supplying distribution system for critical needs, covering exit signage, lighting, fire alarms, and public address systems.
  • Advocates for fire protection technologies, such as automatic fire detection systems, down-comer pipelines, sprinklers, fireman’s lifts, fire barriers, and escape routes.

-Source: The Hindu


June 2024
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