You would have heard about instances of fire outbreak in India that happens every now and then. This has raised some serious questions on the safety and security of people. Fire outbreak can cause severe damage and also result in loss of life. According to the India Risk Survey report, fire outbreak is the third biggest risk to business operations. It can also cause massive property loss. Therefore Government of India has mandated fire safety rules.
In the last few years, we have witnessed a significant growth in high rise buildings. Massive buildings are constructed but have they adopted norms of fire safety? The fire in residential area, especially in high rise buildings, is more destructive, wherein rescue operations are complex and eventually results in loss of lives as well.
Considering the gravity of the situation, awareness should be spread about fire safety. So what are the fire safety rules and regulations in India, and can it prevent potential fire hazards? Let’s find out.
History of Fire Services
The fire services come under the provisions of Article 243W 12th Schedule of the Indian Constitution. The functions in the 12th schedule focus on the performance of municipalities.
Let’s peek into the history of fire services until today:
- The regular fire services in India came into existence more than 200 years ago. The fire service was set up in Bombay in 1803, then in Calcutta in 1822, then in Delhi in 1867 and lastly in Madras in 1908.
- As per the report released by the Ministry of Home Affairs, there were close to 1755 fire stations with 5149 fire vehicles/appliances, and more than 50000 fire professionals were functioning in pan India.
- Further, about 278 trailer made fire stations were running in the industrial realm in 1997.
- According to the annual report of the ministry of Home Affairs, in 2009, the centrally sponsored scheme in reinforcing the fire and emergency services in India got approval from the government. The estimated cost to set up was 200 crore rupees during the 11th plan period, where the state government contributed a share of 40 crore rupees.
- The main objective of the scheme was to strengthen the fire services and emergency services in our country and progressively revamp into Multi-Hazard Response Force, efficient in acting as the first responder in case of emergency.
- The centrally sponsored scheme also provided additional 277 advanced fire tenders, 1146 tools for rescue, 573 quick response team vehicles and 1146 high pressure pumps with water mist technology at Fire brigades district headquarters.
- The ministry of home affairs implemented a fire risk and hazard analysis in India in order to discover the exact need of rescue and fire fighting equipment.
- Some time ago, fire prevention and fire-fighting service providers expressed the lousy condition of fire brigades in India. They informed about the poor state of tools and stated that it’s unorganized and ill-equipped.
- The national building code in India specifies in the matters relating to construction of building and fire safety rules. According to this code, fire prevention and protection belongs to the state. The major responsibility of fire protection and its prevention lies on the state government.
- The fire safety rules for the prevention and protection from fire hazard are stipulated in the form of state regulations or municipal bylaws.
Fire Safety Rules-Compliance by the Government of India
There were instances of several high rise builders and contractors disregard the fire safety rules. Apart from that, the occupiers also never performed their duty of regular maintenance of the fire prevention systems installed at their homes or work place.
Although the fire safety audit can be an efficient tool for the assessment of fire safety and standards in a place, there are no provisions for fire safety legislations concerning the scope, objectives, methodology and periodicity of the fire safety audit.
The national building code in 2016 suggested a periodical fire safety inspection by the personnel residents of the buildings in order to assure fire safety standards. In case of commercial buildings, the statutory authorities such as state factory inspectorate bats for fire safety audit through external agencies depending upon the nature of the materials and activities done in the building.
The following list of fire safety rules has been made mandatory for building owners by the government-
- The residents must conduct fire safety audits in every half-yearly and submit the report to the regulated fire department;
- The hazard identification and risk assessment will focus on identifying any potential hazards;
- A comprehensive fire safety audit shall address the fire safety hazards due to the daily activities in occupancy and will recommend and suggest fire measures to reduce occurrences of them;
- Every municipal corporation with a population of more than 1 million (10 lakhs) should put in place a fire hazard response and prevention plan for their respective jurisdictions;
- A part of the grant allocated by the finance commission to the urban local bodies should be used for refurbishing the fire services in their jurisdiction;
- The urban local bodies must extend financial support to the state fire services department.
Some of the recent measures taken for prevention of fire hazard are as follows:
- In 2020, the health ministry circulated guidelines demanding for a third party accreditation for fire safety;
- The Supreme Court in December 2020 asked all states to carry out fire safety audits;
- The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) stipulated requirements for fire safety in hospitals and other public buildings.
What are the points of concerns that should be addressed with regard to fire safety rules?
There are certain points of concern that requires immediate attention:
- Lack of unified fire services in some states;
- Proper organizational structure, training of personnel is lacking;
- Inadequate modern equipment;
- Appropriate and adequate funding is not there;
- Lack of infrastructure;
- Vulnerability analysis is not performed;
- Lack of public awareness;
- Lack of uniform fire safety legislation.
In order to reduce instances of fire-related accidents, there should be strict adherence and compliance with fire safety rules and regulations in India. Preparedness for the worst-case scenario is the best possible solution.
Read our article: What is the Role of Pollution Control Board?