A little more than a month ago, an apartment in Bengaluru caught on fire after a cylinder burst. A senior citizen and her daughter were unable to escape in time and died. Ten days ago in Mumbai, a fire broke out due to a short circuit in a high-rise building and a security guard lost his life. News of these unfortunate incidents has spurred several apartment complexes and gated communities in Hyderabad to conduct fire drills and fire safety awareness programmes, ahead of Deepavali.
This is being done to make residents aware of what precautions to take to avoid a fire breaking out, and the dos and donâ€™ts in the unfortunate circumstance a fire does break out, several residentsâ€™ associations TNM spoke to said. Moreover, they said that Deepavali is a time when firecrackers are burst and diyas are lit and placed everywhere, and there's a need to educate the residents.
â€śMost people living in high-rises have very little awareness about fire safety. This is despite having elaborate fire fighting systems in place. This is why we decided to conduct a fire drill. We also wanted to see the ability of our fire department in managing such emergencies,â€ť said Irfan, the secretary of the residentsâ€™ association of Aparna Sarovar in Nallagandla.
A fire drill was conducted in the complex, with officials from the fire department present. During the drill, the fire department demonstrated how rescues take place, by having a guard stand on the 9th floor and fire officials rescuing him using their high lift. â€śIt was impressive that their equipment can handle rescue operations on even the 18th and 19th floor,â€ť said Irfan.
Aparna Sarovar also took the help of Usha Fires, a private agency that works toward increasing awareness and providing fire safety training in residential and commercial spaces, to educate the residents.
A fire drill was also conducted at Botanika, a gated community in Gachibowli. Trivikram, a resident, said, â€śAll the residents were also sent an advisory on how to celebrate the festival in a safe manner and where they can burst firecrackers etc.â€ť
â€śWe wanted to be prepared. And, we were also triggered by the kind of fire accidents that are taking place in other cities. Periodically, we keep conducting such drills to increase awareness, but since it's Deepavali time, we need to be extra careful,â€ť he added.
Hill County in Nizampet organised a fire drill for all the residents for the first time. â€śWe have previously conducted fire drills along with the fire safety training for the security staff, but this is the first time that residents have participated,â€ť said Divya Shetty, a resident of the gated community.
She further recalled that minor fire accidents have happened in the past in their area and it's better to be aware of what precautions can be taken to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.
â€śSome things we were told were very basic, such as using the stairs and avoiding taking the lift, and not to touch any electrical equipment in case of a fire, but we tend to forget all this in an emergency,â€ť said Divya.
â€śSuch drills are important and will remind us and prepare us,â€ť she added.
Meanwhile, Sreedhar Reddy, the Ranga Reddy district fire officer told TNM that residents' associations of quite a few apartments and gated communities have come forward asking for fire drills and fire safety awareness programmes to be conducted for their residents. However, he said that the number of people participating wasn't as high as he would like.
â€śIf a gated community or a high-rise building has about 500 households, not even 100 families are turning up. All this is being conducted for the sake of the safety of residents and it is mandatory they attend so they can be alert in case of any emergency,â€ť he added.
During the fire drills, residents were also informed on how to rescue themselves from the site of a fire and how to get help in time. Many residents said that after the drill they felt better equipped in handling fire prevention equipment that is already in place and to protect themselves.
Fire drills are conducted to
> Educate and familiarise residents about evacuation procedures and surrounding fire fighting infrastructure
> Show residents how to make way for Emergency Response Team (ERT) and Fire Brigade Personnel
> Educate people on what measures to take when a fire breaks out and how to extinguish a fire
> Demonstrate to people how to escape from a burning building and how to help someone caught in a fire.
> Show how sand, clay, water and wet clothes can be used to bring a fire under control
> Provide answers to questions residents have about fire safety and evacuations
How to exit a building if a fire breaks out
> Do not use the elevators. Use fire emergency stairs only
> Walk briskly and do not run
> Do not talk while leaving the building and try to remain calm
> Do not use mobile phones while exiting the building
> Always keep your head up and look ahead while leaving the building
> Walk on the right side and do not block the staircase or driveway
> Look out for emergency vehicle movement once outside the building.