Hundreds of commercial complexes housing educational institutions such as coaching centres, tuition classes and parallel colleges across the State function without meeting the mandatory fire safety measures. Thousands of students spend their weekdays in potential risk of a tragedy in such centres without even having the basic first aid support against a possible fire outbreak.
The Fire and Rescue Services has sounded an alarm against such commercial complexes housing educational institutions in the State against the backdrop of a devastating fire tragedy that claimed the lives of 22 students in Surat May 24.
Quick surveys and inspections conducted by the department have found that most buildings run coaching centres and parallel institutions by flouting the basic safety measures mandatory. “Most of our coaching centres function in environments with potential fire risks,” said District Fire Officer Arun Bhaskar, who led a two-day inspection of buildings in the district.
In Palakkad district alone, as many as 40 commercial complexes that had converted their terrace into coaching centres by covering the opening space – like the one in which the tragedy took place in Surat – have been inspected by Mr. Bhaskar and team. Appallingly, none of them have been found to have a fire exit – a mandatory safety measure for any building with more than two storeys. All of them had only one staircase for hundreds of students to use, and there are no fire protection system in place.
“There are not even first-aid fire-fighting facilities,” said Mr. Bhaskar in his report submitted to District Collector D. Balamurali.
“Covering the open terrace of multi-storey buildings makes rescue and evacuation difficult in the event of a fire. When a blaze occurs, smoke and heat fill the covered areas, leading to casualties. The single staircase can often be rendered useless because of smoke and heat. That is why fire exits are mandatory for multi-storey buildings, especially buildings that house hundreds of people at a time,” said Mr. Bhaskar.
The victims of the Surat fire were forced to jump to death because they had no way out as the fire broke out near the staircase. Smoke had filled the covered terrace in no time, choking many and forcing many others to jump out.
A senior fire officer said that most commercial complexes housing educational institutions in the State sit on a fire bomb. “It can explode any time unless we act now,” he said.