Playing with lives: Over 4,000 government schools at fire risk
It's playing with children's lives but the startling fact is that over 4,000 government schools in the national capital are at high fire risk since they do not have the No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Delhi Fire Service, said its director A.K. Sharma.
"These 4,000 schools not only flout rules, they also put themselves at major fire risk. None of these schools are equipped to deal with sudden fire situations owing to lack of safety gadgets," Sharma told IANS in an interview.
He added that it is this "deficiency, which leads to the non-issuance of NOCs".
"Additionally, those schools which have the certificates, do not get them renewed. This renewal is mandatory and should be done every five years, according to the new legislation which came into existence in 2011," he added.
"In case of a fire incident, it is the available safety equipment which come handy until the fire tenders arrive and start their work," said Sharma.
"Hence, this especially becomes a must for those schools which are situated in congested areas like Chandni Chowk and Chowri Bazar," he added.
There are 56 fire stations in Delhi, which house 150 fire engines and 1,300 fire fighters.
Recently, the capital witnessed a major fire in south Delhi's Vasant Kunj area where over 1,000 hutments were reduced to ashes.
In another incident, an old age home in the same area was completely gutted due to a fire caused by a short circuit. The incident killed two senior citizens and left many injured.
To tackle such cases of fire, the DFS currently has five Innova cars well-equipped with fire fighting measures, and also a few motorbikes.
On being asked how well-equppied the DFS is with latest technologies to tackle the growing incidents of fire, Sharma stated that the department has all the latest equipment, which can easily handle fire incidents of any kind.
"We have aerial platform ladders, hydraulic cutting tools, chemical tanks, light vans, foam, rescue tenders and many more such equipments. We are in no way less than the fire fighting teams of western nations", Sharma asserted.
He said that though the DFS was keen on introducing the equipment to the public to make them aware, they could not, owing to the ongoing Lok Sabha poll.
Each fire audit takes around three months to be conducted, Sharma told IANS.
He explained that the fire officials first inspect the building, identify the lacunae, communicate the same to the building owner and then give them time to rectify it before a Compliance Certificate is issued.
"Our inspection team regularly carries out inspections in schools. This has led to a lot of them at least applying for the certificate," he said.
However, he was quick to add that before the NOCs are sanctioned, DFS ensures that all the safety measures are up to the mark.
However, Sharma admitted that the DFS faces an "acute shortage" of fire-fighting personnel, which he said, hindered smooth operations.
"Currently there is 35 percent shortage of fire personnel in the department. Of the total capacity of 3,000, over 1,000 positions are lying vacant," he said.
"Last year, despite 500 candidates being selected, only 200 joined the department," Sharma told IANS.
Giving out a piece of advice, Sharma said though the fire department will always ensure the safety of the people, Delhiites should also do their bit till the fie tenders reach the spot and start work.
"Panicking does not help. We should all work in tandem to fight such crisis situations," he said.
How to fight a fire
Delhi Fire Service suggests the following measures to ensure safety in case of a fire incident:
1. For those schools which are ground-level high, there should be fire extinguishers and fire alarms.
2. One-floor high schools should have fire check doors to confine the spread of fire, ladders, hose reels, sprinklers and extinguishers.
3. Sprinklers are a must for those schools, which are situated in crowded areas.
4. The students of higher classes should be given training on how to use extinguishers and prepare them to tackle an incident of fire.
5. High-rise school buildings need to have water tanks which can store upto 5,000-25,000 litres of water depending on its height.
6. Those schools which provide mid-day meals should have additional extinguishers as they have an active open kitchen which can cause a lot of fire-related incidents.
(Rupesh Dutta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 05-05-2014)