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More stringent fire safety norms soon

The state administration is all set to bring into effect the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act,2006,that will make it mandatory for all residential and commercial buildings...

Written by Dhanya Nair | Mumbai | Published: January 6, 2009 1:07:52 am

Act,pending since 2006,will fix responsibilities,increase penalty over three times

The state administration is all set to bring into effect the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act,2006,that will make it mandatory for all residential and commercial buildings to strictly adhere to a series of fire safety norms. The act,likely to be implemented in the next three months,will come down heavily on buildings that defy safety norms,provide the BMC and the fire brigade some discretionary powers and would raise penalty for defaulters over three fold.

“The idea is to provide elaborative norms regarding fire safety. This Act was initially documented in 2006,but was kept in cold storage. We are regulating it now keeping in mind the numerous fire safety rules being flouted in the state,to regulate the fire department and to increase its efficiency and transparency,” said a senior official from the Urban Development department.

According to civic officials,the Act’s primary benefit is to make fire services user-friendly. “The Act will empower the licensed agencies so that they too are made accountable. Licensed agencies are middle links that have the power to carry out fire safety work in accordance to the norms laid by the fire brigade. Many a times,it becomes difficult to scrutinise them. This Act will bring transparency,” said the official.

This Act is not only restricted to the municipal bodies of the state,but will also make other special planning bodies like the MMRDA,CIDCO,etc. responsible for fire safety in their area,sources said.

The Act will come down strongly on buildings that defy fire safety norms. “Around 80 per cent of city buildings flout fire safety norms. These include residential buildings,malls and industrial estates. Since fire accidents have seen an alarming raise in the city,the need of the hour is to strictly adhere to the norms directed by the state government,” said joint fire officer P D Kargupikkar.

At present,around 500 industrial estates and 110 high rises come under the defaulters list in the city.

Municipal Commissioner Jairaj Phatak on Monday said the Act would give the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the fire brigade some discretionary powers. “The Act will enable the civic body to seal any buildings which are unsafe or in a dilapidated condition. It will also enable us to disconnect basic civic amenities to such buildings,” said Phatak. “Safety of dilapidated buildings will also come under the Act,as it’s a fire and life safety act and not just a safety manual against fire accidents,” he added.

The Act makes it mandatory for buildings to have essential fire-fighting equipment like fire extinguisher,a hose reel,an automatic sprinkler and a tank storing adequate water to douse a fire. “Many a times when we visit a fire spot,we find these essential equipment missing. It becomes even more difficult for us to fight a fire under such circumstances. These equipment will only help the owners of such buildings to take stock of the situation before the fire brigade reaches,” said Kargupikkar.

According to fire officials,the penalty for defaulters under this Act is set to go up from Rs 30,000 to Rs 1 lakh. “We will initially give the defaulters adequate warning through notices. But we will impose the fine on repeat offenders,” said Kargupikkar. “Failure to adhere to fire safety norms will become a non-cognizable offence and offenders can be put to imprisonment ranging from 6 months to 3 years. However,this penalty will be implied only at the end,” he said,adding,“We will recognise the most vulnerable cases and proceed further.”

The Act would be implemented in the next three months. “We are conducting workshops with fire officials from various civic bodies and training them on how to implement this act effectively. We are also conducting awareness campaigns for the layman and teaching him the importance of fire safety,” the official said.

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