On December 28, Mumbai awoke to terrible news – a fire in two upmarket rooftop eateries in Kamala Mills claimed 14 lives. This once again exposed India’s lack of fire safety norms.
Immediately after the tragedy, the NDMC sealed about 30 restaurants in Delhi for ‘misuse of land’. The question on everyone’s mind was, why now?
Subsequent cases of fires breaking out in commercial buildings have been reported in the news thereafter. Just yesterday, a fire broke out late at night in a bar in Bengaluru, which left five employees dead.
A large number of eateries flout safety norms without any fear as there are no strict laws to ensure such mishaps don’t occur.
The problem is implementation.
The National Building Code (NBC), 2016, guidelines mention a list of construction and safety measures for residential and commercial buildings etc. These include the number of exits, placement of extinguishers, a dedicated water supply, fire-retardant building materials, and so on. However, how many follow these guidelines is anybody’s guess.
What’s important to mention here is that the Kamala Mills tragedy could have been avoided.
From narrow exits to the bamboo-and-tarpaulin structure – it was a complete disregard for safety norms and ignorance on the part of the owners which caused it.
When fire broke out at the 1Above restaurant, most people did not know where the fire escape was, as the exits weren’t marked clearly. This led to more confusion and chaos, with some running to the washroom to escape. There they suffocated due to the smoke and no ventilation.
However, it doesn’t mean that a fire-compliant building can’t catch fire. So what’s crucial is to be aware of your options if you do find yourself in such a situation.
Firstly, always find out where the nearest emergency exit is as well as where the fire extinguishers are in the restaurant you’re visiting.
Ask the owner if the exit is locked and how you can unlock it in case of an emergency. Make sure the exit is marked properly, and if not, tell the owner to do so. You can always report them for flouting basic fire safety measures.
2) In case a fire breaks out, call 101 immediately. The sooner you call, the shorter will be the response time.
3) If there is no smoke, walk quickly to the nearest exit. If there is light smoke, you will have to crawl to the nearest exit. Never go to the roof; always try your best to go down and out of the building.
4) Don’t ever go for the elevator. It could malfunction because of the fire, leaving you stuck with no way to escape.
5) The worst case scenario is if the fire is too big and you can’t evacuate. The women who decided to escape to the washroom at the 1Above restaurant died of suffocation. If the washroom is your only escape, try to wet clothing or towels and stuff them around cracks in doors and seal up vents. The idea is not to let the smoke enter.
6) Wet all the walls, doors and windows and keep a wet cloth over your nose and mouth. Breathe through your nose only.
7) Don’t attempt to break the windows as you will attract more smoke and flames from outside. Crack open the window if you need fresh air, but close it immediately.
8) Most importantly, be calm and wait to be rescued.
With a thorough knowledge of emergency procedures, you can increase your chances of survival when stuck in such a situation.