Bangalore has seen a rise in fire accidents, but the city has been neglecting its fire hydrants.
Bangalore has seen a rise in the number of fire accidents over the years, reports say. But despite an increase, the city does not have well-maintained fire hydrants for managing fire accidents. In fact, fire hydrants, which are amongst the essential equipment as per the norms under the Fire Protection and Fire Safety Requirements By Government of India, are dying a slow death, as most of them are either not working or are poorly maintained.
When The Softcopy surveyed the city, only a few could be found in MG Road and Indiranagar. Fire hydrants were not seen in other parts of the city. Officials of the Karnataka Fire and Emergency Services Department (KSFES) told The Softcopy that no survey have been done regarding the number of the installed fire hydrants.
Most fire hydrants have been installed during the colonial period, the official added.
Fire hydrant is a connection point which is used by the firefighters as an outer source during a fire emergency. It is usually attached to an underground pipe or tank. During an emergency, the user attaches the hose to the fire hydrant and then opens the valve for the supply of water.
The guidelines by the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB),say, the Chief Engineer of BWSSB is responsible for fixing those fire hydrants where water supply is sufficient, making it usable during a fire break-out. He is also responsible for their maintenance.
Mr B M Manjunath, the Public Relations officer of BWSSB, told the Softcopy that they have sufficient water supply for the fire hydrants. He said, “We have installed underground pipelines in the buildings as well as roads, for easy accessibility of water to the fire hydrants during emergency. There is no problem with the availability of water to the fire hydrants.”
He added that the remaining fire hydrants are supplied enough water..
The KSFES provided a contrast. A senior official in the KSFES told The Softcopy that most of the fire hydrants are not working due to less supply of water. He said, “Most of the fire hydrants that were installed during the 1950s are not in working condition. We only have a few fire hydrants left, which you can find in M G Road. We have stopped using the fire hydrants because we have other sources of water. “
K Shivakumar, the Director of the KSFES said, “We don’t have enough working fire hydrants in the city left, over the past few years.”
Other Metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata also do not have enough fire hydrants owever, Mumbai is trying to revive the fire hydrant system in the city. A report in May 2019 said, an Internal Public Accounts Committee was formed to revive more than 1000 fire hydrants in the city. The Fire department in Kochi has also planned to introduce permanent fire hydrants in the city.
Mr Shivakumar said that a similar methodology might not be implemented in Bangalore. “We are not planning anything for the revival or the maintenance of the fire hydrants as of now. Since we already have the Fixer Firing Exhausting Installation System which we are using as of now, during fire emergencies. we are trying to improve that.”
“The fire hydrants are also installed depending upon the height of a building. Once we get a No Objection Certificate from the residents, we complete the installation process of fire hydrants,” the KSFES official added.
The guidelines of Natural Disaster Management, also state the need for a comprehensive plan for the maintenance of fire equipment in the city.
Mr Hafeez Aahmed Shariff, a resident of Domlur, said, “It is really worrying that proper safety measures are yet to be installed in many parts of the city. If fire hydrants have not been properly maintained, then it’s the responsibility of the department concerned to install an alternative measure for fire emergencies as well as create awareness amongst people.”
In November 2019, The Softcopy reported an increase in fire accidents in Bangalore. Mr. Subhash Kumar, the Director of 3S Lifecare Akademie reminisced the fire accident of Carlton Towers that happened in 2010. He said, “People are not aware enough about fire safety measures. In India, people are not educated about life safety measures.”
“Fire hydrants are a water-based system with an underground tank system. It is not possible for every building to have fire hydrants. Normally, high rise buildings have fire hydrants. Also, most of the fire hydrants are installed during construction of the building. But once the construction is over, no information is given to the residents regarding the use of a fire hydrant.” Mr Kumar added.
“Apart from using fire hydrants, every house, every school and every vehicle can use fire blankets. It is helpful for extinguishing a fire by cutting the supply of oxygen. It can be used for saving a life.” He added.
A fire blanket is a safety device, which is used for curbing down the initial fire. It is made up of a fire retardant material which is used for smothering the fire.
“Every building might not have a need for a fire hydrant system, but proper awareness programme can help in curbing down a fire.” Mr. Kumar said.