The Tragic Surat Fire Reminds Us It’s Time To Assess Public Places

Posted: May 25, 2019

Yesterday, we heard the deeply saddening news of a massive fire in a commercial building in Surat, and the subsequent deaths of 20 children there.

Even as we put pressure on builders and city authorities to adhere to safety norms when planning and constructing buildings, it’s time to ask what we as citizens can do.

Fire safety in public places is the last thing we would have in mind when we visit these places whether for entertainment or for any other reason. Being more careful could help you avert any tragedies and make your family more aware of the safety concerns.

Common causes of fires

Highly combustible materials – materials used for makeshift roofing could be a shamiana or thatched or made of other cloth. These materials are highly combustible and the fire could reach to dangerous scales in seconds. In the Uphaar cinema tragedy in 1997,  59 people lost their lives due to suffocation and 103 seriously injured due to stampede.

Electrical fires – electrical short-circuit or ignition

Intentional fires – setting fire to garbage or dried plants is a common site in India.

Recent fires in India

Recently we have had so many fire accidents in public places that have caused many casualties and have caused serious damage to life and property.

  1. On March 25, 2018, a fire in a mall in Kemerovo, Russia, killed 64 people, most of which were children
  2. A hospital fire in Miryang, South Korea killed more than 37 people and injured 131 on January 26, 2018
  3. In December 2017, 38 people were killed in a shopping mall fire in Davao city in Indonesia
  4. On December 2017, 14 were killed in a rooftop bar at Kamala mills in Mumbai

How can you protect yourself and others from such fire accidents?

  1. Be a good observer: Before you enter a building, check for these: Does the place have good entry and exit points, is it wide enough for people inside to evacuate in the wake of an incident? Are the exits and areas outside the building not blocked with materials that may hinder evacuation?
  2. Locate the fire exits: Locate the fire exits as soon as you enter the building. This would save you crucial minutes in case of emergencies. Also, check if the aisles and fire exits are not blocked and are wide enough to help everyone evacuate safely
  3. Check for the fire safety system: Check if the building has fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, sprinklers, etc. If you cannot find it, ask the management about the fire safety system of the building
  4. Is the building overcrowded? Do not enter a building if you feel it is unsafe. If the building is overcrowded, or if it has too many heat sources which makes you feel unsafe. Avoid such places.
  5. Have an assembly point: Does the building have an assembly point outside the building and communicate this with your family. In case of an emergency, you can assemble at the same spot without any confusion.
  6. Be vigilant: Don’t think fire accidents cannot happen around you. If the smoke alarm rings or if there is any unusual noise, exit the building immediately.

Never be nonchalant anytime. Fires could happen to anyone and it could happen to you as well.

This article was first published at Beyond Carlton, a non-profit organisation that aims to make India 100% fire safe. You can be a volunteer to help on this mission – sign up here, and the team will come back to you.

Top image credit Business Today

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