January 22, 2021 11:33:43 pm
TO LESSEN the non-firefighting responsibilities of the Mumbai Fire Brigade (MFB), the civic body has proposed new low-rise buildings in the city to obtain self-certification for fire safety compliance.
Under the proposed policy, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials said, buildings up to 30-metre high (roughly eight stories) or low-rise buildings will no longer need to obtain a no-objection certificate from the MFB to get an occupation certificate (OC). Instead, builders or architects can get a fire safety compliance audit done by a third party or an empanelled private agency with the civic body and submit its report to the building proposals department.
For high rises, NOC from the MFB will, however, remain mandatory. A draft policy has been submitted to Municipal Commissioner I S Chahal for administrative approval.
Currently, for new or under-construction buildings, MFB issues a “provisional fire compliance certificate” after builders or architects submit the plan, including all fire safety measures. Once the construction is completed, a joint inspection is conducted by officials from the building proposal department, health officer and fire brigade. All the data from the inspection is then fed to software and an auto-generated date is given. And within 24 hours, the MFB has to give a remark on the inspection.
As per the Fire Safety Act, if a residential building does not have proper fire safety installations, the society or builder can be prosecuted under Sections 6,7 and 8 of the legislation.
In addition to the firefighting operation in the city, the fire brigade handles complaints of tree (or branch) fall during monsoon — as many as 5,000 to 6,000 such incidents are reported each year. On average, the department also receives 10,000 calls for bird and animal rescue annually.
To reduce the burden of administrative tasks and improve the operation of the fire brigade, various committees have made recommendations, however, none of them has been implemented so far. After four senior fire department officials were killed in a blaze at Kalbadevi in 2015, a fact-finding committee had stated: “Firemen should focus on fire-fighting and fire prevention, and not be burdened by administrative tasks”.
In 2011, the BMC had decided to form a cell of 99 fire officers to only inspect high-rises and check their fire safety systems. The plan never materialised.
After the Kalbadevi fire, the idea of a separate cell was mooted but failed to take off. In 2017, after 14 people died in the Kamala Mills fire, for the third time top officials discussed a separate cell in the fire brigade to handle non-firefighting responsibilities. Once again, it remained in the discussion stage.
“The separate cell plan has been revised and now a fire brigade official is assigned to each of the 24 wards to handle the fire-safety inspections,” a senior fire official said.
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