“Fire safety plan should be made part of the city plan,” emphasised Dr. A Ravindra, former Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka, while delivering the Beyond Carlton Memorial Lecture ‘ Our cities on Fire’. The lecture which was held on the 23rd of February at the Karnataka Fire and Emergency Services Headquarters, marked nine years since fire broke out at Carlton towers on Old Airport Road, claiming nine lives.
The event saw the launch of the Campaign – Fire Risk Assessments for Apartments. The campaign is a collaboration between Beyond Carlton, Bengaluru Apartments Federation (BAF), Citizen Matters, Jain University and When it Strikes. It aims to improve awareness among Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) and residents on fire safety, and helps them to be better-prepared for fire accidents. During the event, Siddarameshwar Humanabade who helped 10 people survive during a fire accident at a hospital in Marol, Mumbai on December 18th,was honoured.
‘Builders have scant regard for rules’
Dr. Ravindra in his lecture said that one of the main reasons for buildings catching fire and the associated casualty was builders not following the rules and regulations during construction. He emphasised the need for fire safety plans to be part of the city Master plan. He spoke of how public safety in the city has been compromised due to lack of adequate road infrastructure and footpaths, mishandling of garbage, deteriorating air quality etc.
During the interactive session a citizen highlighted that the Karnataka State Good Samaritan and Medical Professional Act has been recently passed which encourages citizens to help others in dire distress without in anyway being subjected to harassment or inconvenience by the authorities.
‘ The campaign will be Youth centric and participatory ‘
Cheryl Rebello who represents Beyond Carlton, prior to the launch of the Fire Risk Assessment Campaign, explained the rationale behind, objectives of and the process to be followed by the campaign. She said that during the campaign, a standard checklist will be used to see if the apartments have adequate equipment, have had fire safety drills etc. Students from Jain University, members of RWA and When it Strikes will do the assessment of 400 plus apartments which are part of the BAF. Citizen Matters will provide its platforms to highlight the initiative, and Beyond Carlton will assist in the planning.
She added that the assessment will run for three months which will help them get a sense of the awareness and preparedness of citizens. This will enable them to provide support to bolster the safety measures present in respective apartments.
‘I knew that I had to go inside and help people’
“While several people were standing by and taking videos of the fire incident at the hospital, I knew that I had to get in and help,” said Siddarameshwar Humanabade who helped 10 people survive and exit the hospital which caught fire in Marol Mumbai on the December 18th.
Siddarameshwar who worked as a delivery staff for Swiggy at the time narrated vividly the incident and how he thought it was very important to stop and help. After assisting several people, he went in a final time to check if there were other people who needed his help.
He credits the teachings and values that his mother instilled in him from a young age as the reason for him being able to do what he did on that day.
City Fire Safety Blueprint
Gopal Devanahalli, a member of Beyond Carlton, detailed the group’s work and progress in the past year. He highlighted the unique city fire safety blueprint for Bengaluru, that was developed in 2018 along with the Karnataka State Fire and Emergency Services Department. He gave an update on the 5 year city blueprint. For the first year, the department has done a risk profiling of vulnerable buildings and neighbourhoods and are in the process of forming a plan to address it. The Department is currently looking at ways to expand its volunteer base.
Why blame only the builders? Most of the multi-level apartments, office buildings, and palatial homes are not following the Fire Safety Rules through the current rules and regulations are not even sufficient. The builder of the apartment complex where I live had not implemented many Fire Safety directives while handing over the 72 apartment complex to the Apartment Owner’s Welfare Association. When I pointed out various deficiencies for almost 10 years none of the Managing Committees took any action. After the Carlton Tower Fire Incident, I approached the highest official of the Karnataka Fire safety with a request to order an inspection of the complex and 27 violations were noticed and issued 30days notice to correct them. It took 3 years more to complete when they threatened the Association that BESCOM and BWSSB services will be terminated. I was blamed for making the complaints and scores of hate letters, abusive threats and even called for a social boycott of my family which is still continuing. If the citizens themselves are not worried about their safety why should anyone blame anybody else? I have correspondence and proofs, pictures of the violations. I am 76 years old and wanted to settle down peacefully but I am treated as a “trouble maker” by a set of people who siphoned off Association’s funds and not doing things which are required to be done for the safety of the residents.