Kerala: Fire safety norms on back burner

Majority of the 2000 odd residential apartments in state have fire safety gadgets only in namesake.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Even as stringent norms are prescribed to ensure fire safety of buildings, they are followed more in the breach. The majority of the 2000-odd residential apartments in the state have only namesake fire safety gadgets.

While the norms stipulate that fire safety gadgets of all high-rise buildings have to be verified annually, it is being strictly followed only by reputed hotels and offices. Similarly, all occupants of high-rise buildings have to be made aware of the fire safety devices available there.

"It seems the government is waiting for a major fire tragedy to happen. Then only the authorities will give attention to the woes of the apartment residents," said Apartment Owners Apex Association (AOAA) working president C.S. Vinod.

The residents of apartments also allege that many builders install costly fire safety gadgets only for the purpose of getting the initial no-objection-certificates.

"After getting the NOC, the builders remove the gadgets and install them in other sites to get NOC. The only visible thing in most apartments would be the red pipelines, which seems to be the cheapest one. The residents of many apartments had even complained to the authorities of the lack of fire safety standards. But these have fallen on deaf ears only," said Mr. Vinod.

While the Fire and Rescue Services sought to justify the lack of proper fire safety checks at high rises to their meagre staff strength, the apartment owners said that their repeated pleas to have joint fire safety awareness programmes for many apartments were also being ignored.

Fire and Rescue Services Director-General Tomin J. Thachankary said that with the available staff strength there were practical difficulties in carrying out periodic checks at hundreds of high rises that have mushroomed in the state.

"We are trying to put things straight. But with the available staff strength and increasing number of distress calls, it is practically impossible to strictly adhere to the norms like periodic site inspections," he said.

Mr. Vinod said that the AOAA had repeatedly urged the authorities to conduct at least joint awareness sessions for all apartments in a region. But there was no response from the authorities.

A fire safety officer in the state capital said that the no-objection-certificates of Fire and Rescue Services issued to buildings would have a validity of only one year.

“We need to conduct further inspections only if a request is received from the building owners. But considering the high cost involved in maintaining the gadgets, most building owners prefer not to renew the NOCs,” said the official.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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