In Kochi there are shopping complexes where the whole system has to be replaced, say officials.

Fire fighting systems are weak in Kochis buildings but safety inspectors have no teeth
news Fire Safety Thursday, June 01, 2017 - 20:59

In the wake of the fire that broke out in Kochi’s Oberon Mall on May 16, the Ernakulam district Fire and Safety department conducted a series of inspections at different buildings in the city. And during the inspection, the department has found that many of the malls and buildings are not maintaining their fire fighting systems.

“All the buildings have fire fighting system, but the problem is with maintenance. In Kochi there are shopping complexes where the whole system has to be replaced,” the Ernakulam Fire and Safety divisional officer R Prasad told The News Minute.

“But we have no right enforce law, we can just make inspections and serve notices to them,” he added. “We also give reports to district collector. But finally it is upto the local governing body to take action against such buildings that violate laws.”

Prasad said that this is not the first time that the department is conducting inspections.

Around six months ago, the department had issued notices to 700 buildings, warning them against poor maintenance of fire security systems. But when they conducted another inspection two months later, the officials found that 250 of the 700 buildings had not rectified the flaws.

V Siddhakumar, assistant Divisional Fire Safety officer at Ernakulam said that among the 250 buildings, many don’t even have a fire fighting system.

“We have served notices to all, and within a month, we will conduct our next inspections. Since we are not responsible to enforce law we have our own limitations,” he said.

Another officer meanwhile said that all the over state, there is a huge deficiency in the fire fighting force. "There are rules that for a certain population, these many fire officials or fire stations are necessary. In our state, there is a huge deficiency. Instead around 250 stations we just have around 150. This is an unofficial data," he said.

The Oberon Mall fire

Oberon Mall was recently closed down by the Cochin Corporation, following a fire in the mall's food court on May 16. The Corporation had issued a stop memo to the mall to stop functioning till a security check was completed.

Officials say that while Oberon Mall had proper fire fighting systems, the reason it spread was carelessness.

“In the case of Oberon mall, it had proper fire fighting systems. There were some issues of ventilation, that was the only problem. Immediately after the fire broke out, we could locate the source. The fire was caused due to carelessness that the fat of the meats used for cooking was stuck on ventilation as well as on floors and ceilings in a restaurant on the top floor. When the fire broke, this fat catalysed it,” said an officer at the Ernakulam Fire Station who wished to remain anonymous.

Following the fire, officials have been giving training sessions to staff of the Oberon mall on how to act during a fire.

“We have taught them the ‘follow me’ system to avoid a rampage. When the warning alarm rings, a person will take charge of each area and others have to follow him. We evacuated the people inside the theatre in Oberon mall like this when the fire broke,” Prasad said.

“We have gives such training sessions for hospitals, malls, schools, colleges and many other institutions. We can conduct more such sessions if necessary,” he said.


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