Khulna University Urban and Rural Planning Professor Dr Tanjil Sowgat proposed a four-pronged approach to ensure fire safety. He said to be safe individual rooms within a building, the building as a whole, overall built environment and careful planning should be considered to avoid fire hazard.
He showed concerned about the level of knowledge. Ordinary people lack safety and fire fighting knowledge, he said.
‘To me individual awareness and preparedness are critical in dealing with the fire fighting crises,’ observed Tanjil.
He also added that every individual should know how to avoid outbreak of a fire, and respond or fight in the event of a fire.
Tanjil said that at room level, a fire door, fire alarm or carbon detector and water sprinkler would make structures more resilient and safer.
Giving the example of Grenfell Tower case of London that claimed 72 lives because of flammable cladding material, he suggested users to avoid highly flammable materials in room decoration and on building exteriors.
He was concerned that many new residential and non-residential buildings are using highly flammable synthetic, non-fire-resistant glass, wooden boards to decorate their office or houses. For example, he adds that even glasses can become dangerous if overused. When heated, glass sheets may break and cause death when they fall from certain height. At building level, marked fire exit point, fire doors, and exit plan can reduce casualties.
As a planner, he was worried that unplanned street networking developed over many years, un-approved buildings, violation of set rules, high density and lack of concern about fire hazard has increased exposure to fire hazard. Congested built environment helps to spread fire very easily. Such crisis is more acute in cities outside Dhaka.
Citing the example of great London fire in 1666, he said that serious damage can be caused because of narrow roads and unavailability of water. Recent fire fighting in Dhaka proved that water crisis spoiled the entire process.
He suggested that water supply lines should have outlets (or water hydrants) in areas vulnerable to fire hazard to provide water during fire. She suggested widening of roads or use of narrow-road friendly equipment as immediate solution.
Highlighting the old Dhaka fire, he said mixed use of a building increase the vulnerability of any structure. He advised that this is crucial that only compatible uses are allowed in mixed-use areas and industrial and commercial use should be avoided in residential areas.
The urban planner advocated a three-level reformation to deal the current crisis: individual knowledge and awareness, institutional capacity for enforcement and political accountability.
Individuals should be aware about fire safety. One should know the basic technic for fighting and escaping fire, he said.
Intuitionally, the responsible 11 government agencies should monitor compliance of rules during planning and construction and in the post-construction phase.
Tanjil believed that Bangladesh already has a number of regulations in place. The failure is due to limited implementation.
He said, ‘Rather than thinking of new laws, we should start effectively enforcing the existing ones.’
He hoped that key players of current government will learn from the recent events and will guide the nation towards pro-active changes to demonstrate their accountability towards ordinary people.
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