The plan advocates various measures like awareness, survey, public-private partnership and policy change to make Bengaluru free from deaths in fire accidents.

A fire-death-free Bengaluru by 2023 Beyond Carltons ambitious 5-year blueprint
news Fire safety Tuesday, February 20, 2018 - 17:08

February 23 is etched in the memory of many Bengalureans. This year, the day will mark the eighth anniversary of the Carlton Towers fire, which claimed nine lives and injured 70. 

City-based fire safety collective, Beyond Carlton, which emerged shortly after the unfortunate tragedy, has come a long way. What started as a safe space for families of those who perished in the fire, the group has now come up with a five-year fire and emergency services blueprint for Bengaluru. 

The ambitious plan has been put together by Beyond Carlton in collaboration with the Karnataka State Fire and Emergency Services as well as Janaagraha, an NGO which involves citizens in urban governance. Noting that Karnataka saw 1244 deaths from accidental fire in 2015 according to NCRB data, where majority of the casualties were between ages 18 and 45, they aim to achieve the goal of zero deaths in fire related accidents in Bengaluru by 2023. 

“Also knowing that it will be quite a while before fire incidents are completely prevented, the 2023 goal is to reduce the fire incidents to 50% of the number in 2017, and with ‘zero death’,” the Foreword of the blueprint elaborates. 

The plan

The blueprint details the key features, namely a collaborative approach involving stakeholders (government, building owners/occupiers, fire department, civic organisations), yearly milestones and goals, adopting technology, public-private partnership to boost fire-fighting capability, and updating codes and standards along with rigorous implantation. 

Some of the tasks they intend to undertake are profiling buildings and localities to identify those prone to fire risks, setting up a rating system for buildings, working with hospitals for emergency response to fire accidents, linking property tax and fire NOC, creating a database of survivors and burn victims and so on. 

The five-year roadmap is thus broken down into yearly goals in terms of capacity building (red), regulations and compliance (yellow), awareness creation (blue) and key milestones (white). See it below. 

Working with key stakeholders

Beyond Carlton intends to work with various government bodies including BBMP, BESCOM, Health ministry and the state government. “It cannot be done by just the fire department and us. Everyone has to come on board,” Uday Vijayan, founder of Beyond Carlton, tells TNM.

He also says that what lies ahead is going to be an uphill battle. 

Uday sees political will as well as bureaucratic red tape as challenges. “But I am optimistic. We generally tend to be sceptical about bureaucracy, but I think once we have the support of, say, the home minister, the rest should fall into place. We are planning to meet him soon,” he says.

When it comes to ground work and budgeting, Uday says that they are going to call for volunteers once they have a workable plan for that task ready. They are already working in close collaboration with the fire department, and will rely on their expertise, for instance, inspect and rate buildings on their fire safety compliance. 

For rating buildings, Uday says they are also considering setting up a website which people can access and post their observations when they visit these buildings.

Rajeev Gowda, Congress MP and public policy expert, had talked about a similar initiative in the US called ‘Scorecard’ at the Beyond Carlton Memorial Lecture on Saturday. On this American website, people can rate cities on the basis of pollution, identify and learn about health hazards and so on. He had explained that this acts as a crowdsourced public check on authorities responsible for these indicators. 

Uday says that they want to have a similar system, which will allow for transparency in terms of fire safety in buildings in Bengaluru. 

The budget has not yet been decided, however, Uday says that they will looking at private as well as corporate sector for the same. 

He assures that Beyond Carlton is ready to face the challenges that will inevitably come their way. “I am optimistic because we have been here for a while. We have learnt a few things – like you need to maintain consistent pubic pressure on civic issues for the government to take note,” Uday says. “Fire is something that does not discriminate between party lines, caste or religion. We have had support from the citizenry so far, and we think they will be with us to make this a reality as well.”

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