When Rashmi Mitra, a Kolkata-based fashion designer, decided to buy a new apartment for her parents, instead of simple flats, residential complexes were her preference. The wonderful amenities, high-end infrastructure, and the safety of living within a gated community â€” she wanted all of these. Yet, she was fazed by the possibility of fire hazards in high-rise buildings.
Like Rashmi, for most people today, living a life of comfort and convenience in the city almost invariably means living in a high-rise. High-rise buildings are the new norm of residential living in all major cities and also in second-tier cities. In a country where urban space comes at a premium, vertical expansion is the answer. However, fire safety concerns about living in a high-rise are legitimate.
High-rise buildings are structurally quite prone to rapid spreading of fires due to the presence of elevator shafts, garbage chutes, stairwells, etc. Consequently, a lot of measures both of engineering and building procedures are now being practiced to minimise the chances of fire and the spreading of it.
As a potential homeowner or tenant, one should make sure of the presence and functioning of the basic fire safety measures that a high-rise building should possess. Here is a rundown of the necessary fire safety features you should watch out for in a high-rise building.
Fire Safety Measures in a Building
The fire safety measures are best when implemented at the initial stage of designing the building itself. Therefore, throughout the construction and building of the high-rise, planned inclusion of fire safety measures in the form of materials, structural modifications, etc. can provide a good foundation for a building that is safe from fire hazards. These may include:
â€˘ Fire-resistant construction materials
â€˘ Underground fire refuge areas
â€˘ Fire escape chutes
â€˘ Heat sensors and smoke detectors
â€˘ Overhead water sprinklers and fire hydrants
â€˘ Wet riser water tanks
Indiaâ€™s National Building Code (NBC) provides comprehensive guidelines about various Indian Standards to be followed during building construction and various other safety requirements that need to be implemented. It includes specifications regarding building categories, dangers to avoid, rules for the exit, fire detection,Â and alarm systems etc.
Standard Evacuation System
Every high-rise building should have a standard process of fire hazard management. There should be clearly outlined rules and precautionary measures to be followed during an emergency. Along with trained maintenance people, there should be public address systems to alert inhabitants, every floor should include an outline of the building floor plan with escape routes clearly marked, portable fire extinguishers should be available on every floor, and there should be prompt notice to the fire brigade authorities as well to attend to the crisis at the earliest.
Mr. R.R. Nair, Chief Executive, Safety and Health Information Bureau have discussed the evacuation and exit strategies to be followed by high-rise buildings in greater depths in this very insightful article.
Housing Society Preparedness
The responsibility of the people managing or representing the inhabitants of a high-rise building also plays a great role in preventing and also in averting a hazard like fire. Every high-rise building has housing societies which maintain the overall functioning of a high-rise. These housing societies should be suitably updated on fire preparedness. This includes maintenance of fire-fighting equipment like hydrants, sensors, alarms, detectors, extinguishers, etc. as well as awareness and training of high-rise inhabitants on fire safety drills and evacuation process
The NBC also emphasises the importance of fire safety drills, especially in terms of high-rise buildings. Fire drills should be conducted at least once in three months in during the first two years of its construction, specifies the National Building Code 2005. After that, such drills have to be conducted once every six months.
As you can see, ensuring fire safety in a high-rise building is not just about structural specifications; it is also an on-going effort. Therefore, it is wise to ask a developer and community management if they follow these protocols to understand whether they are proactive about fire safety.
Fire safety measures are taken quite seriously by developers of high-rise building projects these days. However, it is essential that prospective inhabitants watch out and check for the measures adopted by a high-rise. Safety can never be compromised. Having said so, it is equally true that fire hazards can never be completely ruled out; precaution is the only measure that can be taken. Nonetheless, early detection and proper management of a fire outbreak is the best approach in case of a crisis. Therefore, fire safety measures in a high-rise building should be given utmost importance.
Lastly, letâ€™s round up with some basic pointers for high-rise fire safety measures:
â€˘ There should be a minimum of two access ways in and out of the high-rise building.
â€˘ A multi-storied building must have alternative staircases for reaching all the floors.
â€˘ A residential building should have the proper arrangement for storing anÂ adequate quantity of water along with ways to source more water in case of a fire hazard.
â€˘ All the electrical circuits of the building must be designed with high-quality fire-proof materials and workmanship.
â€˘ The road leading to a high-rise should be wide enough for a fire fighting vehicle to access with ease.
â€˘ The lobby and or evacuation areas should be ventilated to withstand and resist both fire and smoke for at least an hour.
â€˘ If you live with kids, make sure they are given proper education on fire hazards and safety measure to follow.
You can check out the West Bengal governmentâ€™s website for more fire safety measures.
Keep in mind these factors when hunting for that ideal unit in your preferred high-rise building and never ignore fire safety measures. Remember, staying alert is the best way to stay safe.