Even as the recent Surat fire tragedy has triggered an alarm bell in an overcrowded city like Patna, people residing in highrise apartments are least concerned about the violation of fire safetynorms in most dwellings.
Experts say that there has been tremendous growth of malls and highrise buildings (a building above 15 metres in height is commonly called a highrise building) in the city during the last one decade and the numbers are increasing exponentially. However, the people are quite unaware of the fire safety arrangements before purchasing or hiring a flat in an apartment or before watching a movie in a multiplex. Besides, most of the private coaching institutions are running in buildings located in some of the most congested localities, they say.
Large-scale construction of false roofs in most commercial complexes and public as well as private institutions has also been a major cause of fires in buildings. Munger University vice-chancellor Ranjit Kumar Verma, who has been a professor of chemistry in Magadh University, says that false roofs are generally made of light weight polyurethane foam (PUF) tiles which are the most inflammable materials around us.
“Even though PUF happens to be a good plastic insulation having high thermal properties (making it suitable for air-conditioning), it poses a huge risk of accidental fire as most of the time it is exposed to electrical wiring which, on becoming heated due to overloading or short-circuit, catches fire immediately. Incidentally, the most popular anti-inflammable fire resistant chemical, called tetrachloro naphthalene, that used to be added in such installations, has now been banned,” Verma said.
NIT-Patna electrical engineering department teacher and Pataliputra University pro-vice-chancellor Girish Kumar Chaudhary, however, said incidence of fire has declined during the last two decades following adoption of fire safety norms in the buildings.
“If there be proper designing of electrical fittings and regular maintenance (at least once a year) of wiring, such tragic incidence of accidental fires would be minimized. As the wiring is usually concealed in most buildings and the contractors use adhesive tapes of low quality for connecting wires, their strength loosens soon and they cause short-circuit, giving rise to fire,” he said.
Moreover, location of electricity panels right below the stairs in most apartments is also very dangerous. The Patna Regional Development Authority must check the design of electrical system along with the design of the building before giving its approval to the builder so that the fire safety norms are completely observed, adds Chaudhary.
Santosh Pathak, who resides in an apartment at Anandpuri, said fire safety does not end with the installation of fire safety equipment. “There has to be a regular inspection by the authorities concerned,” he added.