The blazing infernos
When noted American essayist, Charles Dudley Warner said, “To poke a wood fire is more solid enjoyment than almost anything else in the world;” he certainly wouldn\'t have expected that nearly two centuries later establishments in the city would take the line in its literal sense. Hospitals, schools, colleges and function halls that buzz with activity are places where we take it for granted that safety is assured and fool-proof.
Thousands of schools and colleges, hundreds of hospitals lack fire safety measures
When noted American essayist, Charles Dudley Warner said, “To poke a wood fire is more solid enjoyment than almost anything else in the world;” he certainly wouldn't have expected that nearly two centuries later establishments in the city would take the line in its literal sense. Hospitals, schools, colleges and function halls that buzz with activity are places where we take it for granted that safety is assured and fool-proof. However, that is not the case.
Most of these establishments in the city have flouted the most sensitive aspect-fire-safety precautions. According to the reports from the fire department of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), a copy of which is with The Hans India, approximately 745 colleges, 634 function halls, 946 hospitals and 2,869 schools lack basic fire-safety measures. Not just that, they have been classified as ‘unsafe’ establishments.
To make matters worse, the fire-safety department doesn't have punitive powers. Even if a firm fails to get an NOC, the department serves a notice and gives a couple of months’ time to comply with the fire safety standards, and then again serves the notice.
“The department is forced to serve notice which often has no concrete counter-effect and fails to serve any purpose,” laments Prasanna Kumar, Deputy Fire Officer (DFO) at the Corporation. “We do not have punitive or closure powers, at best we can refer the frequent errant parties to the legal cell to prosecute,” he added.
Even that hardly has any bearing. Till date there has not been even a single prosecution. The department has been pleading for forceful power so as to enforce fire safety norms in a more meaningful manner. Driven to the wall for their failure to get the powers, the fire wing has hit upon novel ideas. For starters, they are put up posters in front of any building that comes under the ‘unsafe’ category.
“This building is fire unsafe” will be the telling message that greets a visitor to such buildings. It remains to be seen such measures can yield results. Periodical awareness programmes and urging students, officials and the regulars to report would be more fruitful and perhaps a saner measure. What’s more they are cost-effective.
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