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Thursday, July 19, 2012


How do you beat fire in your homes? With smart thinking and smarter technology, says Monarose Pereira

 The Mantralaya fire has stressed the need to take adequate safety measures. The responsibility to take precautions against a fire hazard rests with the flat owners and housing societies. 
    Today most balconies are converted into rooms, to gain additional space. The windows of these open spaces are often covered with grills to prevent burglary and to safeguard children. While there is no denying the logic behind enclosing these areas, the grills prevent and obstruct safety exit points. Grills block access to the flat during emergencies. Stair-wells too should not be grilled. Firemen often have to hack through or gas cut the grills to enter the premises, thus wasting precious time. Architect Mahindra Chawla of Chawla N Associates, suggests that if you must have a grill, have one with a door with a numeric lock to help escape in case of an emergency. Parapets and architectural protrusions often form part of the design of a building and serve as important places to evacuate residents from, in case of an emergency. 
    Residents should be firm about not allowing fireworks in or near the building 
    The fire alarm system and firefighting equipment should be regularly maintained. Test fire hydrants and other systems regularly 
    Conduct periodic fire drills in your society, so that at least one person in the family is aware of the procedures in the case of a breakout 
    All residents must know the location of the main switch 
    They should also be trained in basic firefighting skills. For instance, an electrical fire cannot be fought with water 
    The passage and staircase must be free of clutter 
    A lift should never be used in the case of fire. Take the stairs 
    Fire hydrants and hoses must be kept ready and well maintained 
The approach to the entrance to the building must be kept wide and clear Update your checklist of important phone numbers like those of the fire brigade, police, ambulance, doctors, hospitals, blood banks, etc handy Insurance policies must be regularly updated according to requirements 
    Today, technology has advanced a great deal and there are several technical measures to prevent a fire. Manish Peswani, pincipal dsigner, Urbane Touch, shares some valuable information on the subject. According to him, designers can make decisions that significantly reduce the risk to safety and health during the construction stage and during subsequent use and maintenance. They have to ensure that the fire safety guidelines are followed. In addition to these, correct execution of electric wiring, using the right quality and thickness of wires and ensuring proper earthing, can reduce the chances of fire due to short circuit to a great extent. Buildings can nowadays also be designed and constructed to resist and withstand earthquakes and fires. 
    Modern technology and advanced research have enabled the development of a wide variety of fire-resistant and fire-proof building materials. External walls should be constructed from non-combustible materials like steel, fibre cement, brick and stone. 
    The use of wood in furniture is an integral part of home décor, is a double-edged sword. Although the medium provides warmth, aesthetics and elegance, wood is an inherently combustible material. However, use of plywood treated to have a stronger resistance to fire and treating wood with fire retardant paint makes the house more fire resistant. Use of fire proof wires and switches, now available in the market, is also recommended for the same reason. 
    Think aluminum windows with low heat reflecting glass or double glazed windows with an air gap acting as insulation are better than, using wooden ones as they help in making the home fireproof. 
    Use of fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, sprinklers and other fire fighting systems in common areas of buildings helps in reducing impact in case of fire and alarming the occupants.


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