It was in February 2010 that the iconic Carlton Towers in Bengaluru went up in flames and claimed nine lives and injured another 70. Eight years from then, the city now has a holistic fire safety blueprint to reduce casualties due to fire-related accidents to zero by 2023.
The target is to half the number of such casualties, which according to the National Crime Records Bureau stands at an average of less than six lives a year, every year from 2017. From 2011 to 2016, the city registered 29 deaths due to fire accidents.
The latest major accident occurred in January when five waiters died after a fire broke out at a restobar. Investigations carried out after the mishap found that there were no fire safety amenities such as fire extinguishers and fire exit staircases.
The safety audit plan has been prepared by Beyond Carlton, a city-based fire safety community that was formed following the Carlton Towers fire tragedy in consultation with the Karnataka State Fire and Emergency Services, and Janaagraha, a city non-profit.
â€śI believe that the contribution of Beyond Carlton in bringing about awareness in this regard has been highly appreciable and this particular report is a very technically sound report that we will integrate into all ongoing projects,â€ť (sic) MN Reddi, Director General of Police in Karnataka State & Chief of Fire & Emergency Services, said in a statement.
Beyond Carlton was formed following a sustained citizen activism campaign led by Uday Vijayan, who lost his son in the mishap. He along with other citizens who lost their dear ones in the fire started posing questions to the authorities.
Recent results of the collectiveâ€™s effort compelled the Karnataka government to amend its fire safety laws following a Public Interest Litigation it had filed in the High Court in 2011.
Speaking about the necessity of the blueprint, Uday told TNM, â€śI feel our attitude towards fire safety as a nation has always been reactive. So now at the back of the Mumbai pub fire, we started checking pubs everywhere. Now if we have an incident of hospital fire, the same thing will follow.â€ť
Uday added, â€śWe felt the need for a greater focus on fire prevention rather than on firefighting. Firefighting is really reactive, most often itâ€™s really late. The idea of the blueprint is how do we become more proactive at looking at fire prevention.â€ť
He stresses, â€śThe issue is that itâ€™s a team gameâ€¦ you need all the stakeholders, like the BBMP, BESCOM, etc., to participate in it. We as citizens do not have the authority but we can be catalysts for change.â€ť
(For details on the fire safety blueprint, click here.)