The Grenfell Tower fire in London demonstrated that you can never be too careful when it comes to safeguarding your homes from fire outbreaks. The tragic incident, whose death toll is rising by the minute, brought out into the open the failure of the authorities to take the residents’ fire hazard concerns seriously. The Grenfell tower’s single escape route, dangerous placements of boilers and gas pipes and lack of integrated fire-alarm and sprinkler systems all seem to have contributed to one of the worst fire disasters of London.
Since even a smoke alarm is a foreign concept to majority of homes here in India, it is a miracle we do not have such large-scale fire disasters in India. And Twitter seems to agree:
Looking at the #londonfire pics, we can only thank our stars for each living day given how casually we take fire safety in India!
— Rachita Prasad (@rachitaprasadET) June 14, 2017
According to a report by R.R.Nair, almost 25,000 people die of fire or related hazards every year in India, out of which two-third of them are women. Since fire is a state subject, there is also the problem of lack of funds and manpower. Additionally, flouting of imposed norms in housing constructions, especially in high-rise buildings, is more common than we would like to believe. When such is the case, what can we do individually to keep our family and our homes safe?
1. Fire Safety Audit: If you’re buying a new house or an apartment, make sure to conduct a fire safety audit, which assesses whether the construction is in compliance with National Building Code of India, relevant Indian Standards and the legislations enacted by state governments and local bodies, on fire prevention, fire protection and life safety measures. Additionally, as per Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act 2009, it is mandatory for building owners and residents to conduct safety audits every six months, and submit the report to fire department.
2. Passive Fire Protection System: It is also believed that passive fire protection system that includes fire doors, fire walls and floors, automatic sprinklers and smoke alarms should be encouraged in India.
They control the damage caused by fire until fire-fighters arrive, or any other active fire-fighting system like a fire extinguisher can be accessed.
3. Safe use of Electrical Appliance: Never ever leave electrical appliances like hair straighteners, iron boxes, ovens or any other home appliances on beyond the prescribed time limit or without supervision. It is not worth losing your life for perfectly straight hair, crease-less attire or extra-hot samosas.
4. Safe Cooking: Easier said than done, but avoid letting children and pets into the kitchen. Additionally, if your oven, stove or a pan containing food catches fire, please do not pour water. Instead, close the stove/oven and then cut the fuel/power supply. If it’s a pan, slide a lid over it and then do the same. Also, do not wear flammable material while cooking.
5. Safe Living: Avoid smoking when you are on bed or feeling drowsy and do not discard the butts carelessly. Also, keep flammable materials away from children’s reach. Do not leave candles unattended and don’t leave them burning overnight. Additionally, keep your attics, garages and basements clean of trash, since they are highly flammable. So are the dead trees, weeds and shrubs surrounding your home, which may act as fuel.
6. Escape Plan: Are you already cautious but not sure if everyone around you is? Make sure you have an escape plan in any case, since any room can be consumed by fire within 3 minutes. Devise an escape plan where every room has two exits and thoroughly discuss the plan with your family members. Follow the advice of everyone’s favourite theoretical physicist, Sheldon Cooper, and practice the escape plan, at least twice a year.
For a more detailed plan on safeguarding your home against fires, please do refer to this Home Owner’s Guide for Fire Safety.