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Monday, December 3, 2012

Cuffe Parade blaze a fire alarm for Mumbai

Fire Brigade's Ladders Reach Up To Only 68 Metres. In June, 78 Proposals For 70-Metre-Plus Buildings Were Cleared

    Sunday's fire at the residential Jolly Maker-1 tower in Cuffe Parade exposed how ill-prepared Mumbai is to fight highrise blazes on two counts. First, the fire brigade is too poorly equipped to respond to emergencies on higher floors. Second, despite the tony, 26-storey building having an internal fire-fighting system, it turned out to be useless as it was not kept in functioning condition. Shockingly, residents said the building had recently installed the fire-fighting system. 
    It is important to fight fires from within the building as also from without, but Mumbai appears to be not up to the challenge even as the high-rise committee -- which has a fire officer on board -- continues clearing proposals for even taller buildings. 

    While the fire brigade has ladders that reach up to only 68 metres (20 to 25 storeys), there are around 1,200 buildings taller than 70 metres in the city. In June this year, Retired Justice Shafi Parkar, the high-rise committee chairman, and municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte cleared development proposals for 78 skyscrapers taller than 70 metres. Parkar said the fire brigade's preparedness is taken into account when clearing a proposal for a skyscraper. However, it took fire-fighters four hours to fight Sunday's blaze, which was on the 19th floor. 
    The BMC will soon be spending Rs 15 crore to obtain advanced aerial ladders that can reach up to 90 metres (around 30 storeys). 
When Suhas Joshi, Mumbai's chief fire officer, was asked how fires would be handled in buildings of 30 or more storeys, he said, "Under such circumstances, firefighters depend heavily on internal systems installed by the developers so they can fight the fire from the inside." However, as the Jolly Maker-1 blaze showed, internal systems are not inspected often enough. 
    According to the BMC's esti
mate, there are over 5,000 highrises (buildings taller than seven storeys) in Mumbai and the number keeps increasing. 
    Despite a senior fire official telling TOI that the fire brigade is equipped to handle fires as high as 68 metres, fire-fighters were in September seen struggling with 
hydraulic ladders that refused to reach even the 12th floor at BKC. A fire had raged for two hours at the First International Financial Centre (FIFC) building. After some trial-and-error tactics, three hydraulic ladders with different heights were used to reach the 12th floor. In June, the fire brigade took over 12 hours to douse a raging inferno that spread through the upper floors of the state secretariat, Mantralaya. 
    "One can't object to high-rises, per se," said city-based architect P K Das, member, Indian Institute of Architects. "But the fact is that we, as a city, are ill-equipped and incapable of dealing with emergencies in high-rises. Our infrastructure is also not designed to handle high-rises. Having isolated high-rises in parts of the city proves counter-productive. There has to be a larger vision for Mumbai. When the state's high-rise committee approves proposals for skyscrapers, it must look at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's preparedness, infrastruc
ture and the carrying capacity of the areas in which the buildings are proposed. There should be a comprehensive study and not one based on an individual plot or building." 
Aday after a major fire broke out on the 19th floor of Jolly Maker-1, a Cuffe Parade residential tower, the fire brigade was yet to conclude its investigation and ascertain the cause of the blaze. Fire brigade officers said they are in the process of giving the society's management a notice for the defunct fire-fighting system in the building. The nonfunctioning equipment delayed getting the blaze under control. Senior fire brigade officials said the most likely cause of the blaze would be a short-circuit in the AC unit of the house on the 19th floor. On Monday, residents were returning to their homes, which they had left following the fire early on Sunday morning. TNN 

20 aerial ladders, some reaching up to 68m, others up to 42m Advanced rescue tenders Advanced water tankers with high pressure jets Advanced pumps Turntable ladders Hydraulic platforms 
Hydraulic ladders reaching up to 90m (under process) Adequate staff, including firemen Special cell to inspect high-rises, malls, multiplexes and commercial complexes (to be ready by next year) 
Most importantly, fire-fighting needs to be done from within, with fire-safety engineering done during construction. A high-rise can have fire-fighter & safety lifts, protective lobbies, refuge areas, emergency power and water, emergency lights at exits and direct exits

BURNING ISSUE: It took the fire brigade four hours to battle a blaze on the 19th floor of the 26-storey Jolly Maker-1, thanks to poor equipment and a non-functioning fire-safety system in the building

Fire-fighting shafts with elevators 
There is an In-built Building Control System (BCS) for central management of power and ACs, which is linked to a life-safety system activated during emergencies. If a fire breaks out on a floor, the BCS provides for a pressure differential between that and other floors to contain the flare-up 
A 190-foot-long sky-bridge connects both towers on the 41st and 42nd floors, ensuring that people can cross over to the other tower in case one catches fire 
Regular fire drills with evacuation pegged at 20 minutes

Fire-fighters' elevator with a capacity of 5,500 kg allows firefighters to transport equipment. Some other elevators are also programmed for controlled evacuation with emergency power 
Pressurized air-conditioned refuge areas every 25 floors and fire-proof stairways 
LCD panels display emergency updates specific to each floor 
Multi-alarm sensors with smoke, heat and optical sensors are present on each floor


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