India”s Fire Safety: A Smokescreen For Ignorance And Impending Disasters

Posted on November 30, 2012

By Umika Sharma:

Maybe the people in our country are such daredevils that they really like the thought of playing with fire. How else would one explain our constant ignorance towards fire safety? I used the word “our” because all of us are equally responsible. I am pretty sure that none of us has ever thought of equipping our homes with fire safety measures. Neither do we bother to do it for our offices. Or even our schools.

I do remember seeing a few fire extinguishers around my school or in my parents’ office building but I do not recall ever being aware of how to use it. Once I even asked my parents about how it functions yet I was simply met with confused looks as even they weren’t completely sure. The whole point here is that we are all so blatantly ignorant of the fact that we are at constant danger of being exposed to fire induced hazards. Forget about being equipped, we are not even aware that such a danger exists and can be life threatening.

In the past, we have seen a number of disasters resulting because of fires. It has happened in movie theatres, shopping complexes, high rise buildings and even hospitals. Fire disasters are one thing that can happen due to any number of reasons. It can be a fault in electric equipment or simply a cracker which has lost its direction. A small reason can result in a huge fire. After any fire related disaster, the authorities suddenly wake up, seal buildings and give out statements about how seriously they will take it up. Even the media stretches the topic for a few days. Then what happens? It all dies down. People forget about it and move on. They go back to those buildings which have no fire safety mechanisms in place and those houses in which they never bothered to install any safeguards.

Though the high-rise buildings are now coming up with fire safety measures yet the older structures, which still make up a major chunk of infrastructure of this country, were built decades ago when even the concept of fire safety did not exist. So they are grossly unequipped for any disaster just lurking around the corner.

Even if we talk about the narrow by lanes of any city of this country we will realize how prone these areas are to fire disasters, be it residential blocks or market places. If any fire disaster ever happened in these places, the fire-fighters might take hours just to reach these affected areas.

Yes, we do have so-called fire safety laws but these laws go up in smoke when it comes to ground realities. The temporary markets made up with shamiyanas and the urban slums are such areas where these norms hold no value. The people don’t care and the authorities are unconcerned about any disaster that may happen. Also, our fire department is completely ineffective for any such disaster. They are understaffed, unprepared and have obsolete equipment for meeting the modern day requirements.

Basically, if we and the authorities do not wake up from our deep slumber and realize our responsibilities towards our own safety, another disaster may strike. The onus of responsibility lies on the authorities for making people aware of safeguards against fire hazards and on us to equip ourselves against such hazards, because if we continue to play with fire, the flames are bound to get us some day.

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