WITH CASES of fire breaking out in several societies this year, the fire department held a random check in the city and issued notices to 30 societies for flouting safety norms and lacking basic fire-fighting equipment. Although societies require permissions, which are only given if building safety standards are met, it was found that in these societies, either the fire-fighting equipment was outdated or they didn’t have any at all. Also, there were no checks from the builders.
According to the fire department, only 30 societies have so far been issued notices. This is because of the inadequate staff strength of the fire department, which has made it difficult for them to keep a check on all the societies.
“There were several incidents where societies were unable to use the equipment. According to Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act 2006, it is mandatory for all residential societies to carry out a fire audit with the help of a licensed agency that has been put up in maharashtrafireservices.org. However, people have not made the initiative and we do not have the staff to check each and every society in the city,” said Chief Fire Officer Prasad Ranpise.
On the action that will be taken once the notices are issued, he said, “We first issue notices after which if the societies are still found to be flouting norms, then action can be initiated. We can cut the power supply followed by the water connection.” He added that last year, a leading institute on Vetal Tekdi had to go without water for four days for not adhering to the fire audit.
The rules under section 3 (3) of the Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Measures Act clearly states that it is mandatory that the builder or the society/condominium or the residents have to take cognizance of the rules and keep a check on the fire fighting equipment installed in buildings. It has to be checked from a licensed agency and a copy has to be given to the fire department. However, this is not practised. The fire department in the PMC area has 12 fire stations and just 13 officers and fire officials have said it is practically impossible for them to keep a check on all the societies.
What’s worse is that society members are clueless about the basic fire safety norms. “The residents don’t know how to use the fire-fighting equipment in case of fire and this is definitely an issue,” said Ranpise. As per the norms, societies also have to produce audit reports conducted twice a year and submit them to the fire department.
Societies, on the other hand, have pleaded ignorance to such a system. “Nobody has told us about the audit. We were expecting the fire department to come and give us a demonstration,” said Shail Chaturvedi, society chairman of a leading society in the Camp area.
Seema Biswas, from another society in the PCMC area, said that though the fire-fighting system is in place, they didn’t know how to use it. Biswas added, “we never knew that there was an audit required.” Ranpise said, the residents have to be more vigilant and be aware of fire fighting norms and not wait for a tragedy to strike.