With the monsoon in full swing, Mumbai’s high – rises’ poor fire-readiness hints towards a need to have a proper Fire Evacuation System in place

By Dr Vikram Mehta

July 16: About the Author: Dr Vikram Mehta is India’s renowned production Engineer and Innovator in the Fire Evacuation field and construction equipment industry. He is fondly known as ‘Maharashtra’s Fire Man’ in the industry and recently has been conferred the prestigious ‘Saavali’ Puraskar (Award) at the hands of Hon. Shri. Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Governor, Maharashtra. He is an alumnus of Wharton University.

Every year, the monsoon brings worries for Mumbai and threats of fire breakouts to loom over the city, which has witnessed over 26,000 fire incidences in the last five years. Among many the reasons short – circuits have always posed higher fire risks. According to Mumbai Fire Brigade, about 70 per cent of fire incidents usually occur due to electrical short – circuits. This scenario exposes the inabilities of the city’s residential buildings – and particularly the high-rises – to fight sudden fire situations. The most recent fire incident in Mumbai occurred on June 19th, 2022, on the 14th floor of a tall residential building in a western suburb of Borivali that needed seven fire engines and eight jumbo tankers to douse the fire and fortunately, 11 people were rescued, according to a Fire Control Room Official. This incident underlines a desperate need to have adequate Fire Evacuation Systems in place in high–rise buildings to tackle abrupt fire accidents.

‘Evacuation’ is always the best arsenal in dealing with chronic fires. Considering the issue of safety, it is of utmost importance for high–rises and other buildings in the city to assess and set up adequate Fire Evacuation Systems before the tragedy happens. For instance, if the fire catches up amid heavy rains, the issues such as waterlogging and traffic congestion worsen the firefighting and rescue operations, as the fire brigade officials struggle to reach the destination in time, which may endanger people’s precious lives and invaluable assets. There is also a risk of short – circuits due to heavy rains, causing the smog to spread in seconds if there is a strong wind velocity. In drastic fires, the visibility almost becomes zero, which creates constraints on the movement of Firefighters in rescuing the people. It is thus critical to safely evacuate people when fire brigade officials are delayed due to heavy rains or traffic congestion, or the factors like winds or smog hampering the firefighting operations.

Many high–rises in the city do not have adequate Fire Evacuation Systems such as Fire Evacuation Lifts in place, even though the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has made it mandatory for high-rise buildings 70 meters and above (21 floors and above) to install a Fire Evacuation Lift. Though the BMC issued this notification in 2018, not many high–rises are seen to be complying with this stipulation when it is made for the safety of people and the property. Hence, there is a dire need for people living in such high–rises to re-look at their fire evacuation needs and set up the right infrastructure. As compared to other Fire Evacuations systems, a Fire Evacuation Lift provides a much better option and can be used seamlessly for evacuating people stranded inside the building. It helps the firefighters reach higher floors faster and evacuate 10-18 people in less than three minutes at one time. It also enables the ‘Emergency Response Team’ (ERT) to reach even the 40th-floor app. in a minute to extinguish the fire and save lives and assets. Such lifts always prove to be a boon, as these are designed with advanced technologies like IoT, a trap door for emergency exit, a cabin up of non-combustible material, side panels with ceramic wool with a two–hour fire rating, etc., provide a perfect exit to fire victims.

Another advantage of the Fire Evacuation Lift is that it reaches faster on higher floors, where it is difficult for the turntable ladders to reach. As every second is precious in firefighting, this lift is very useful for Fire Officers to reach the fire destination in real-time. A Fire Evacuation Lift is a saviour, and hence, every high-rise building’s Existing Fire Safety System should be upgraded to a Fire Evacuation System to accommodate this vertical Fire Evacuation Lift before it is too late! Considering the monsoon, it is just a priority.

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