Mumbai: New buildings must have fire evacuation lifts, says BMC CFO

Manufacturers of fire evacuation lifts say few builders install these and the Mumbai Fire Brigade should create more awareness

Sweety AdimulamUpdated: Wednesday, January 26, 2022, 07:11 AM IST
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Fire evacuation lifts are a must for new buildings as per a 2018 notification, and new buildings are not granted NOCs until they have installed these, Mumbai Fire Brigade’s Chief Fire Officer Hemant Parab told The Free Press Journal. “Until new buildings fulfil the obligation, no-objection certificates (NOCs) are not granted,” Parab said. When asked why several builders prefer fire chutes instead of fire evacuation lifts, Parab replied, “At the preliminary stage of planning of a new building, if a developer says that a fire evacuation lift is not possible, then we freeze the plan. A new building must have a fire evacuation lift because today, no training is required to operate a lift, whereas using a fire chute calls for training. There is also the fear factor involved. Only those buildings that had passed the preliminary stage when the 2018 notification was issued and cannot modify the plan for fire evacuation lifts are allowed to use fire chutes,” he said.

Speaking on fire mishaps in the past and recent past occurring in older buildings, Parab said, “We cannot force old, existing buildings that have come up before 2018 to install these fire evacuation lifts. Installing such advanced technology lifts can only be decided by the housing society. However, we can always check and enforce fire safety systems such as sprinklers etc to be operational.”

Today there are several companies manufacturing these fire evacuation lifts. One such is Spartan Engineering Industries Private Limited, which specialises in these. Vikram Mehta, managing director of the Mumbai-based company, taking a serious view of the recent fire in a Tardeo high-rise in which seven people perished, said, the number of fire incidents and the casualties in Mumbai’s high-rise buildings continue to rise. Had there been enough fire evacuation mechanisms in place in all such buildings where fires had broken out in the recent past, the city would not have seen such catastrophes. Life in high-rises in a city like Mumbai had simply become precarious, he said.

“People speak of fire-fighting and fire safety; but hardly any or no attention is paid to fire evacuation measures. No one speaks about how firefighters can reach high floors in case of fire and evacuate those stranded. Mostly, people die of carbon monoxide inhalation in these cases. For lack of fire evacuation systems, people are forced to rush to safety through staircases and may develop breathing issues, inhaling excess carbon monoxide, resulting in serious health issues and even deaths.”

He further points out, “We can understand the extraordinary challenge faced by firefighters in rescuing people stuck in a blaze. However, to tackle such a scenario, we need sound fire evacuation infrastructure. Every high-rise building must have a fire evacuation lift and it must be the new ‘vertical fire brigade’, reaching higher floors vertically. We also need fire engine trucks to reach higher floors vertically.”

According to fire expert Dr Deepak Monga from the company Spartan, in the Tardeo tragedy, the CFO had told the media that firemen had to take the staircase, lugging heavy breathing apparatus (BA). The weight of this BA is almost 20kgs and these firemen had to climb 19 floors to rescue the people stuck on high-rise. “If a fire evacuation lift would have been installed, the task would have much easier. Abroad, such lifts are common in every building. It’s high time that the BMC and the fire brigade created awareness, so that no builder can run away from the installation of such fire evacuation lifts, since these save lot of time, save lives and can avert a major tragedy. A fire engine may take 10 minutes to arrive and only then can rescue operations begin. However, if a fire evacuation lift is available, the tenants can safeguard themselves. Our company takes up the responsibility of training people in buildings where such lifts are installed.”

Dr Monga claims that of the approximately 1,400 buildings under construction in Mumbai and Thane, only 100-200 buildings are installing such lifts, just around two per cent. This number should improve, in order to prevent such fire mishaps.

However, it is an arduous task to persuade builders to install these lifts because of the cost factor. Fire evacuation lifts are priced between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 1crore, while fire chutes cost Rs 15-20 lakh. But there are several builders who have taken the initiative to install these life-saving lifts, like the Wadhwa Group and the Hiranandani Group. Yashodhan Tere, Wadhwa Group’s head of design, said, “A robust fire-fighting system is a crucial aspect of a building’s safety plan, be it residential/ commercial/ retail premises. Apart from just following the norms laid out by civic bodies for approvals, developers should add value by selecting fire-resistant materials for construction and should lay out proper fire evacuation equipment and plans which will minimise the risk in case of a fire emergency. Advisories or education/ training for residents should also be carried out from time to time. For us customer safety is of utmost importance.”

What a fire evacuation lift offers:

  • Faster rescue & evacuation time

  • Safer & faster, especially for seniors, children, the disabled & pets

  • Through IoT (Internet of Things), automatic notifications to occupants and fire brigade in emergencies

  • Equipped with fire-fighting equipment like fire blankets, extinguishers, first-aid kits

  • Gearless traction machine

  • Reduces carry load of firemen and rescue team

  • Reduces fatigue

  • Different power source

  • Real-time data access

  • Two-way communication, so firemen can communicate from any floor with the lift operator

  • Manual changeover switch option

  • 30-minute battery back-up

  • Lift cabin made of non-combustible material

  • Fire-rated vision panel

  • Jearkless back-up system

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