Public Building and Fire Safety Rules in India

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Introduction

According to the most current statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau, India’s dismal fire safety record was reflected in the deaths of 17,700 persons in fires in both public and private buildings across the country in 2015. Fire is a severe hazard to a range of constructions in India. Almost every day, fires are reported by media sources around the country. These fires not only killed and injured a large number of people, but they also destroyed a large amount of property.

Construction activity in India has expanded substantially during the last two decades, especially in high-rise structures. As a consequence of its unique character, fire in residential structures, particularly high-rise structures, becomes more complex, making salvage actions more difficult and, in some circumstances, leading in several deaths and major property losses.

Present Status of Fire Services in India

According to Article 243W of the Constitution, municipalities in India are responsible for completing the activities stated in the 12th schedule.Currently, the concerned states, Union Territories (UTs), and Urban Local Bodies offer fire prevention and firefighting services (ULBs).Municipal corporations manage fire services in several states, such as Gujarat and Chhattisgarh. It is controlled by the Home Ministry’s department in the remaining states.

In response to problems in fire services in various regions of the nation and the need to improve them, the Government of India formed a Standing Fire Advisory Committee (SFAC) under the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1956, which was renamed Standing Fire Advisory Council (SFAC) in 1980. In several states, such as Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, municipal corporations are in charge of fire services. In the remaining states, it is under the control of the Home Ministry’s department.

In 1956, the Government of India established a Standing Fire Advisory Committee (SFAC) under the Ministry of Home Affairs, which was renamed Standing Fire Advisory Council (SFAC) in 1980, in response to difficulties with fire services in various parts of the country and the need to strengthen them.

The Problems in the Current Structure

Physically, cities are changing at a dizzying rate, similar to a chain reaction. Additional housing and working space is required as the population grows. As a result, both residential and commercial structures often increase and densify with time.The Firemaster strategy is not being altered or updated even in this circumstance. In addition, just 30% of Indian cities have any form of master plan.

Many commercial and residential structures, particularly high-rises, have been found to be in breach of fire safety rules. Many building tenants or organisations do not care to keep their fire suppression systems up to date on a regular basis. Despite the fact that fire safety audits have been shown to be a useful tool for analysing an organization’s or occupancy’s fire safety standards, none of India’s fire safety laws specify the scope, objectives, methodology, or frequency of a fire safety audit.

Main Regulations

The Twelfth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which is controlled by Article 243W of the Constitution, governs firefighting services in India. The functions mentioned in the Twelfth Schedule are the responsibility of municipalities. Currently, fire prevention and firefighting services are organised by the respective States and Union Territories. It’s important to note that India’s fire departments are still varied, with the bulk being under-equipped and poorly organised.

India’s primary model regulation for matters such as building construction and fire safety is the National Building Code (NBC). Firefighting and prevention are the responsibility of the state. The majority of fire prevention and protection is the responsibility of state governments. The legislation for fire prevention and protection are established by State Regulations or Municipal By-Laws.

National Building Code:

The National Building Code is created by the Bureau of Indian Standards. The NBC published its debut issue in 1970. Between 1983 and 1997, this edition was modified three times. In 2005, the NBC published the second version. The third edition of the NBC was released in 2016, and it covered the most up-to-date information on the country’s building projects. NBC’s primary purpose is to outline practises that provide a practical and reasonable degree of fire safety. The Code mandates that building occupants and users comply with the basic minimum of fire safety regulations. To guarantee that fire protection equipment/installations satisfy the set quality criteria, it is preferable to use those that have been officially certified under the BIS Certification Marks Scheme. Building constraints in each fire zone are mentioned, as well as building classification based on occupancy, fire zone demarcation, height limitations, kinds of structure construction based on fire resistance of structural and non-structural components, and other restrictions and regulations essential to reduce the risk of death from fire, smoke, gases, or panic before the building is constructed.

The Code recognises that life safety is about more than only escape and, as a result, it tackles a wide range of concerns that are deemed vital to life safety. As a result, the Code includes requirements concerning egress, such as exit access, exit, and exit discharge, among other things. It also provides guidelines for deploying portable and fixed firefighting equipment to protect various occupancies from fire.

State Regulations:

The National Building Code is supplemented, for the most part, by state fire prevention and fire safety statutes and requirements. Many of the NBC Code’s provisions have been adopted by state and municipal governments in their individual building codes. States such as Maharashtra and Gujarat, for example, have enacted legislation and regulations to enhance the overall quality of fire protection measures in their jurisdictions. Many individuals have pondered who will be responsible for supplying a building’s or habitation’s fire protection and prevention system. These concepts are clearly stated by Maharashtra’s statutes and laws. All fire and safety precautions must comply with the National Building Code of India, as amended from time to time, according to Section 3 of the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006, otherwise they would be regarded a violation of the Act. It means that the owner or occupier of a building or occupancy is responsible for keeping the fire safety equipment in good working order.

Related Regulations:

Aside from the particular State Acts and Rules listed above, there are a number of other pieces of fire-prevention legislation. Two of the most important are the Factories Act and State Factories Rules. The occupier’s obligations are emphasised in Section 38 of the Factories Act of 1948, which include I taking all possible care to prevent the spread of fire, (ii) providing a safe means of escape, and (iii) providing suitable fire protection. (iv) to instruct all personnel how to use fire escape routes and what to do in the case of a fire. Section 37 of the Factories Act of 1948 also prescribes particular measures to prevent explosions. Under the Factories Act, the State Factories Rules give extensive guidance on how to avoid fire dangers.

Codes and Standards:
IS Codes

BIS has established approximately 150 fire safety standards for buildings, firefighting equipment, and systems, including the following: Buildings, electrical generating and distributing stations, cotton textile mills, rubber and plastic, libraries and archives, iron and steel industries, hotels, and educational institutions fire detection and alarm systems are all covered by this code of practise. Only a few examples are fixed automatic sprinkler fire extinguishing systems, gaseous fire extinguishing systems, water mist systems, portable fire extinguishers, long-range foam monitors, fire detection and alarm systems, and so on.

OISD Standards

The Oil Sector Safety Institution (OISD) is a technical organisation inside India’s Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas that develops and monitors a set of self-regulatory processes aimed at enhancing the safety of the oil and gas sector. STD 114 (Safe handling of hazardous chemicals), STD 116 (Fire Protection Facilities for Petroleum Refineries and Oil/Gas Processing Plants), and STD 117 (Fire Protection Facilities for Petroleum Refineries and Oil/Gas Processing Plants) are among the standards created by the OISD (Fire Protection Facilities for Petroleum Depots, Terminals, Pipeline installations & Lube oil installations). Depending on the kind of operation and the nature of the materials handled in the structure, statutory agencies such as the State Factory Inspectorate require an outside fire safety assessment for industrial buildings.

Compliance:

Readers would be interested in the terms of the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Rules, 2009, which were adopted under the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act, 2006. These legislation required building owners and inhabitants to undertake half-yearly fire safety audits and submit the results to the fire service. Without a doubt, it is an excellent example for other nations to follow. However, leaving the fire safety audit to “Licensed Agencies” has produced some confusion, because the same agency is responsible for I installing firefighting systems in an occupancy with a Form “A” certification and (ii) performing firefighting system maintenance and issuing a half-yearly certificate under Form “B” I

Form ‘B’ certification is sometimes misinterpreted as a Safety Audit, which is erroneous. The scope and methodology of the audit may have been weakened as a result of this agreement. Furthermore, it is not permissible to delegate the auditing work to the same ‘Licensed Agencies’ that installed or maintained firefighting equipment in an occupancy. It’s also controversial if so-called “Licensed Agencies” have the expertise and capability to undertake a comprehensive fire safety audit. As a result, the fire safety inspection appears to have degraded into a routine.

The NBC categorises the structures into nine groups:

These individuals have been classified into a variety of categories. The NBC is also responsible for three distinct types of fire zones and four different types of structures.

NBC Part 4 (Fire and Life Safety), which covers substantial regulations on fire prevention, life safety, and fire protection, contains the fire safety standards. The fire protection, which not only deals with fire prevention and protection, but also gives guidance by setting standards for construction, plumbing, electrical installations, including wiring, lighting, ventilation, heating and air conditioning, safety sanitation, active and passive fire protection systems, and so on.

Shortcomings in the Present System

1. Some states have a deficit of unified fire services, which offer all of the essential requirements and training in firefighting.

2. In India, most fire departments lack adequate organisational structure, training, and opportunity for firemen to further their careers.

3. Current equipment lacks scalability, permission, and standards;

4. Appropriate and sufficient financing is lacking, preventing advancements in firefighting technology.

5. It is difficult to get a real-time awareness of the environment due to a shortage of training institutes.

6. Lack of infrastructure, such as fire stations and lodging for crews.

7. Vulnerability analyses are hardly never carried out.

8. No public awareness initiatives (DOs and DON’Ts), simulated exercises, or evacuation exercises are in place.

9. In certain states, there are no uniform fire safety requirements.

WAY FORWARD

Advance Planning

1. Find out what you’re meant to do ahead of time by checking with your building management and fire department.

2. If a fire is detected, call the fire department and raise the alarm. Pay attention and obey instructions if you hear them over the public address system in your building. It’s conceivable that you’ll be recommended to remain in your current location.

3. Follow your escape plan if you see smoke or other symptoms of a fire.

Be Prepared

1. Recognize the location and function of the fire alarms in the building.

2. Get to know the sound of your building’s fire sirens.

3. Make sure that everyone in your house knows where to go in the event of a fire alarm, and that you all practise your escape plan together. Your building’s administration should post evacuation plans where everyone can see them.

4. Some evacuation strategies may require you to enter the building and wait for firemen to supervise your escape in a “safe area.”

5. Know at least two exits from each of the rooms in your flat.

6. Count the number of doors between your apartment and the nearest building exit. There’s a chance you’ll have to flee a fire in the dark.

7. In certain high-rise situations, staying there and shielding oneself from the flames until the fire department comes is the safest option.

FIRE DETECTORS, FIRST AID FIRE FIGHTING SYSTEM

Determine who is responsible for maintaining your building’s fire safety systems, such as fire/smoke check doors, fire alarms, emergency lights, and fire sprinklers, up to date. Don’t be afraid to report the issue as soon as you notice it. If the situation persists, get assistance from your local fire department. Check to check if anything is obstructing or interfering with the fire suppression systems within or outside the building.

EXITS

It is never a good idea to lock or block fire exits. Garbage should be kept out of the escape route. In the case of a fire, fire doors not only provide a means of escape, but they also aid to reduce the spread of the fire’s and smoke’s effects. A fire door should never be propped open.

IF A FIRE BREAKS OUT ELSEWHERE IN YOUR BUILDING

Usually, staying in your own apartment is the safest alternative. However, if your unit is impacted by heat or smoke, leave right once and shut all windows and doors behind you.

  • Fire Safety Audits should be made mandatory across India, and the auditing job should be given to third-party businesses having prior experience in the sector. Once a year, each tenant should do a fire safety audit. Above all, the effectiveness of fire prevention and firefighting is strongly reliant on the active engagement of all employees.
  • A approach for detecting and analysing possible dangers is HIRA (Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment). A thorough fire safety audit may detect the inherent fire dangers that come with day-to-day workplace operations and provide ways to reduce the risk of fire. Fire Safety Audits should be made mandatory across India, and the auditing job should be outsourced to third-party businesses with prior expertise. Once a year, each tenant should do a fire safety audit. Above all, the effectiveness of fire prevention and suppression is strongly reliant on all employees’ active engagement.
  • HIRA is a technique for detecting and analysing possible threats (Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment). A thorough fire safety audit may detect the inherent fire risks that come with day-to-day workplace operations and provide ways to reduce the risk of fire.

CONCLUSION:

Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (HIRA) is a method for identifying and assessing possible risks. A thorough fire safety audit may detect the inherent fire threats that come with day-to-day activity in a facility and provide measures to lessen such risks.

Although India has a multitude of fire safety guidelines, regulations, regulations, and regulations, they are rarely followed. Several big fires in various occupancies were caused by a lack of compliance with fire safety rules, some of which ended in tragedy. According to studies, the majority of skyscrapers in Mumbai continue to ignore the compliance certificate for fire safety rules. Several well-known high-rise structures in New Delhi are in great danger of becoming fire traps. In and around Connaught Place, the majority of high-rise buildings lack fire safety certification. Nearly 90% of the structures in Chennai are fire dangers.

Fire Safety Audits should be made mandatory throughout India if you want to reduce the number of fires, and the auditing job should be delegated to third-party agencies with experience in the field. Once a year, each tenant should conduct a fire safety audit. Above all, the effectiveness of fire prevention and fire defence is strongly reliant on active engagement from all members of a workplace. Always keep in mind that prevention is better than cure.

Author: Tanya Godre

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