No land for firestations in Bangalore

Many incidents in the city in the past have proven that the fire emergencies in Bangalore do not get timely help. As the city saturates, the worry of fire and emergencies also mounts, because of the increasing skyscrapers and congested areas.

The lacunae in the fire services are usually attributed to shortage of stations. And why is the shortage? Because, the Fire Department doesn’t have enough land inside the city.

Explaining the shortfall, Om Prakash, Director General of Karnataka Fire and Emergency Services Department, says that finding land to build a fire station is the biggest challenge. Funds and government permission is not a problem.

He adds that the Department can even manage and open the station in 20 guntas of land. But then, the number of bays (number of fire vehicles parked) will be limited. The bays are usually- two, three or five.

Om Prakash explains that half an acre to one acre of land is required to build a fire station, another half acre for building quarters and rest of the space for staff training and maintenance of equipment.

The quarters are useful for the staff whose homes are far away from their duty station, to ensure that the personnel are present round the clock. The standard followed by all fire stations is that two senior officials along with 12 firemen reside at the fire station. Now the Department is left with no land to handle all these requirements.



Shortage of land leads to shortage of fire stations inside the city. Pic: Bosky Khanna

Department to find land on outskirts

The Karnataka Fire and Emergency Services Department has now decided to acquire land on the outskirts of Bangalore, before the city fully develops on the outskirts.

Om Prakash says that the Department is identifying suitable land on the outskirts. “Since there is no more land left in Bangalore, outskirts is the only option,” he adds.

“The places identified will be presented before the government for their approval. Then the land will be taken over and construction work will commence,” adds Om Prakash.

The range fire officers have been entrusted with the task of identifying lands. The Department has plans to build fire stations in Nagarbhavi, Sunkadakatte on Magadi Road, Sarjapura village, Mysore road towards Bidadi and Ramanagar. Areas along the proposed Peripheral Ring Road and state and national highways are also on the list, but the areas are yet to be identified.

The Department is also constructing two new stations at EPIP near Whitefield and Secretariat near Vikasa Soudha.

Present status

The Department has 184 stations out of sanctioned 211 fire and emergency stations in the entire state.

Bangalore has 15 fire stations. They are in Mayo Hall, High Grounds, Jayanagar near Bannerghatta Road, Sarjapura Road, Mahadevapura, Banaswadi, Hebbal, Jakkur, Rajajinagar, Peenya, Yeshwanthpur, Anjanapur, Mysore Road, Banashankari and Electronic city. Apart from this, yet-to-be-opened stations are in Hulimavu and Anekal.

There are five small fire protection squads in government buildings too. They are in M S Building, V V Towers, Raj Bhavan and High Court.

More stations needed

Bangalore is spread across 702 square kilometres and has 15 fire stations. Chairman of Centre for Infrastructure and Sustainable Transportation and Urban Planning (CiSTUP), Prof. T G Sitharam advocates the need to have more stations. He explains that, since roads are narrow and blocked with heavy traffic, it is tough for the fire and emergency teams to reach a spot immediately.

Urban planner and partner of Integrated Design, Mohan Rao adds that the Town Planning Department and the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike should have thought about the number of stations, when expanding the city. “Why does the government usually wait for a calamity to wake up?” he questions.

Experts also worry about the time taken to reach the site and the jurisdiction of each station. According to the norms of the Department,  the response time should be within three minutes.

However, while, the Department does not have ready statistics to share about whether there were delays in reaching a spot, they say that they reach the spot at the earliest. They too point that there is a shortage of stations.

Further, according to the recommendations of former Chief Fire Advisor to Government of India and Director General of Civil Defence and Home Guards, O P Bhagat, there should be one fire station at every 10 square kilometres. Going by this, there should be around 70 fire stations in Bangalore, but there are only 15.

Shortage of fire vehicles

According to former deputy director of the Department B G Chengappa, there should be one fire vehicle for every one lakh population. This he says is the international standard.

Bangalore houses around 90 lakh dwellers. Going by this standard, the city needs around 90 fire vehicles. But there are only 60 fire fighting vehicles catering to the city.

Name

Number

Purpose

Fire tender

31

Each carries 4,500 litres of water and is the first vehicle to leave the fire station when emergency is reported

Water lorries

10

Each carries 9000 litres of water each. This moves when the tender is not sufficient

Water dossiers

8

Each carries 16,000 litres of water and moves when the tender and lorry need help

Rescue vans

5

Each contains all the urban search and rescue operation equipment to help people round the clock

Snorkel

1

Hydraulic platform to reach people in high rise buildings

Aids Necessities Transporter (ANT) vehicle

1

A multi purpose vehicle capable of delivering emergency housing and supplies to disaster areas

Towing tenders

10

Vehicle that move heavy duty vehicles like tenders when they are stuck somewhere

Ambulances

2

 

Varanas

3

Mist technology vehicles

Agnis

3

Motorbike mist technology vehicles

MIC-tech vehicle

1

Mission critical emergency service vehicle- a specialised vehicle used for fire, life saving, floods and other emergencies. It is a multirole vehicle

Motorcycles

16

For the emergency staff to travel fast

B G Chengappa says that the norms for the number of stations are also mentioned in the norms of the Fire Advisory Standing Committee, constituted in 1958. They were later mentioned in the report of Annexure 2 and can referred here.

Apart from this, there are also the National Disaster Management Guidelines, which say that the station should be set up near to dwellings so that the response time is between 3-5 minutes in urban areas and not more than 20 minutes in rural areas.

Outdated standards?

Om Prakash adds that as per the central government recommendation, there should atleast be one fire station in each district. As per the state government recommendation, there should be at least one fire station in each taluk.

If these recommendations are to be followed, Bangalore has enough stations. But the Department personnel opine that they are not sufficient for the ever-developing city of Bangalore.



Going by the standards, there is shortage of everything – fire stations, vehicles, staff. Pic: Bosky Khanna

Staff shortage

There is also a shortfall in the staff strength. The government has sanctioned the Department a total strength of 848 personnel for Bangalore. However the actual strength is 575 – short of 273.

The Department takes the help of volunteers working in the Karnataka Civil Defence Corps, during emergencies. Says Chief Warden, Civil Defence, Dr PRS Chetan, “We have 13,500 volunteers in Bangalore. They are always present to help the fire personnel.” These volunteers include students, professionals from various fields like doctors, engineers, college principals and house wives.

What is Mist Technology?

Throughout the world, people depend 95% on water and 5% on other elements like sand and chemicals to douse fire. Depending upon the situation strong jets or sprinklers are used. Mist is a new technology where every water droplet is mechanically broken into 50-100 microns (which is mist) and then sprayed at the fire. This douses fire faster, explains Rasheed.

Under this technology, water is broken at high pressure and released at high pressure. The small water droplets help in suppressing or extinguishing fire immediately. This technology is being used in other developed nations. In India it is yet to be implemented, simply because the extinguisher is different and expensive.

Mist is better than other mechanisms because it reduces the usage of water, is environmentally safe and has no toxic problems.

Still a long way to go

According to Mohan Rao, mere presence of stations is not the only solution. All buildings should comply with the fire safety norms. They should have proper fire fighting mechanisms including big fire escapes, hydrants and extinguishers.

The Department norms say that NOC is required for buildings which have ground plus three floors. But there are many old buildings which do not come under this category and have no fire safety mechanisms.

Sitharam says that more fire safety drills need to be conducted in apartments, commercial spaces and densely populated areas so that they are well prepared to meet any problems. He also suggests that they should have more smaller units like the fire protection squads across the city, where stations cannot be built.

Deputy Director of the Department, D Rasheed says that the Department was in the process of adding more stations and purchasing more equipments and vehicles. He says the department is worried about old, densely populated areas in the city, like Chickpet and Shivajinagar where lanes are narrow and building walls are shared. The Department is also worried about grey areas where there is no ground water, like Devanahalli.

He also says that the Department is not much worried about high rise buildings as they generally follow the norms. “Proposals are underway to purchase new equipment to cater to structures which are even 50-storey high. We are also working on implementing the new Mist technology,” he says.

Om Prakash points that Mist technology can be used only in government places. In case of private buildings, it is up to people to use it or not. The department is yet to work out the cost details.

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About Bosky Khanna 0 Articles
Bosky Khanna is Staff Journalist, Citizen Matters.

1 Comment

  1. What happened to many CA sites earmarked during erstwhile JDS-Cong and JDS-BJP & BJP rule, Many CA sites meant for civic amenity purposes such as primarily health centres, schools etc. have been misused by local party heads, despite local representations by citizens, these CA sites were not utilised for the purpose to which BDA has earmarked. Let them make a study and this will reveal who is behind in giving facours to their so called contacts. Residents are mute spectators to these things. Ward Committee Members have no role to play under the present circumstances. Only high court can interfere in these things so that govt. will promptly reply.

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