Policy

Govt makes fire evacuation devices mandatory for Mumbai high-rises

| Updated on: Jan 06, 2012

The new rule on emergency fire evacuation devices has been incorporated in the recently amended Development Control Regulations.

To ensure that occupants of high-rises escape fire hazards, the Maharashtra government has made it mandatory for buildings having more than 20 storeys to have emergency fire evacuation devices in Mumbai. This provision is likely to be extended across the State in due course.

Maharashtra is probably the first State in the country to make installation of fire escape devices in high-rises a must. This is in addition to the existing requirement of compulsorily having fire-fighting devices.

The State government's move comes in the wake of disastrous fire accidents in recent times at various places in the country.

Last February, nine persons died in the Carlton Towers fire in Bangalore. To escape the heat, some victims jumped to their death. The images of their desperation are still fresh in public memory. Last month, the fire at AMRI Hospital in Kolkata claimed 93 lives.

The new rule on emergency fire evacuation devices has been incorporated in the recently amended Development Control Regulations (DCR).

Types of devices

These devices are designed to evacuate residents of high-rises. A variety of systems, like long cylindrical escape chutes, external collapsible cabins and controlled descent devices, are available in the market.

A senior State government official said a number of manufacturers have already approached the government for test runs. Each device manufacturer claims superiority of its product over the others. However, the government is not very keen to prescribe a particular technology for buildings. All it wants is that the quality of devices should be such that affected people are evacuated safely.

Mr Alfred Arambhan, co-founder of A&G Partners, said that after the 9/11 attack, new escape devices were designed and incorporated in the building codes in the US and Japan. The amended DCR is a step in the right direction, he said.

His company has tied up with an Israeli firm DoublExit for sourcing controlled descent devices. It has exclusive rights to distribute the product in India.

Mr Arambhan said that due to the congested roads in metro cities, fire trucks get delayed in reaching accident sites. At the first sign of trouble, without waiting for any external help, a person using a controlled descent device can reach the ground floor. Since the device is reusable it can be utilised for rescuing a number of people, he said.

Descent device

The controlled descent device has a long steel rope and a body harness. It is anchored in a wall, close to the window. Just like a mountaineer descending a cliff, the building resident can reach the ground floor in a controlled manner. It can be used for buildings, which are about 150 metres high with loads ranging from 30 to 150 kg and a controlled descent rate of about 1 metre a second.

Mr Arambhan added such devices are available at about Rs 3.5 lakh, but with growing number of users the prices are bound to fall. A&G Partners is also looking at manufacturing the device in India by 2013, he said.

The chairman of Zicom, Mr Manohar Bidaye told Business Line that the new rule was a missing link in the old DCR. However, even if the government makes it mandatory to install such devices in high-rise buildings, what is required is strict enforcement.

“Similar to the fire rescue equipment, a number of fire fighting equipment have been installed in buildings for the sake of regulatory compliance. But their quality leaves a lot to be desired. Therefore, what is required is equipment of international quality. The fire services authorities also need to carry out routine drills to check the efficacy of these equipment,” Mr Bidaye said.

There is a huge opportunity in this class of equipment and Zicom would be looking at manufacturing them in the near future, he added.

rahulw@thehindu.co.in

Published on January 06, 2012

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