THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With no emphasis on fire safety in the disaster management plan for Thiruvananthapuram city, recurrent fires are inevitable, say experts. In emergencies, firemen march into a blaze just banking on the wisdom of a few who may have visited the building earlier. There are no hotlines for them to access layout plans of old buildings from the civic body before the fire-fighting begins. “We have the plans of a few recently built buildings such as Pothys or Big Bazaar. For old structures, we bank on ideas acquired from previous site visits,” said senior fire officials.
Most of the structures in Chalai are unplanned old ones and chaos was evident during the fire in November 2014. “Fire gets no emphasis in the disaster management plan. Also, the scale of vulnerability assessment maps with the State Distaste Management Authority (SDMA) are big. Local hazards on the ground are not taken into consideration. We are trying to centralise disaster management activities while there is a need to decentralise disaster management activities,” said KG Thara, former head of SDMA.
While suggestions are made about mini fire stations in localities like Chalai and inside Padmanabha temple, local participation in preventing fires has been poor. “A recent fire audit had found out that around 70 buildings around Padmanbhaswamy temple were at risk of fire. Only 20 of the buildings’ owners showed up at a meeting called by the Fire Department,” said Fire Department Divisional Officer M Noushad.
DC had on Monday reported that the fire audit also had a drawback in that certain buildings including the post office, that was gutted on Sunday, was also excluded from the fire audit. “Yes, such a laxity has happened in assessing the threat. We are doing extensive field visits to avoid fire outbreaks,” he added. Ms Thara also added that the equipment fire fighters were provided with were not advanced and too few in number. It is pertinent to note that during major fire outbreaks there was no other option for officials than to fall back on Fire tenders and resources belonging to the Airport Authority of India (AAI).