3 top officers of what is widely considered India’s finest firefighting force lost their lives in the line of duty in Mumbai this month. What does it take to battle a blaze in overcrowded, mostly fire-unsafe urban India? Tanushree Venkataraman in Mumbai & Sarah Hafeez in New Delhi report.
When you dial
The call: Helpline Number 101 connects to control room in Byculla Fire Station. Call is disconnected, and returned immediately to verify the caller and guard against hoaxes. Once verified, a wireless message is flashed to the nearest fire station, which sends out a team of 1 fire official, 1 leading fireman and 4 firemen.
Response: “Once the station receives the call, a bell is rung and the fire engine must leave within 1 minute,” a senior fire official said. At the spot, the official has 2 minutes to report his assessment to the control room. If the fire is minor fire, a ‘stop message’ is issued; or, the officer can issue a Grade 1 or Grade 2 call.
Control: BMC headquarters is kept informed on a parallel wireless system. “The department can help us with JCBs, additional help from the water department and can inform ward officials who reach the spot in case of a major fire,” the official said.
The call: Helpline Number connects to Fire Control Room at the Connaught Place HQ. Address and informed description of fire are recorded. Hoax calls are only 1-2 per cent, and no verification is done. Information is relayed to the nearest fire station.
Response: As per predetermined despatch system based on grade and intensity of fire, a specific number of fire tenders and fire fighters move within 40 seconds to 1 minute. Firefighters live at the station, where the bell rings.
Control: Officer in charge keeps fire station updated; when confused, can call in advice on procedure from seniors. Fire Services are also called in to check the structural health of old and dilapidated buildings by bodies like the MCD, DDA, NDMC.
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