Dhaka University Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability Studies director and Professor Mahbuba Nasreen said that fire might start for many reasons even after having all the safety measures in place.
A building should follow fire safety code. Safety measures can reduce the risks and better prepare the inhabitants of a building in reducing casualty and damage.
‘We have huge lack of both safety measures and awareness,’ she said, adding that this was the best time to ensure that all features are included.
She pointed out three-tires of problems — structures built without fire safety plan, structures that mostly deviated from the plan and, lastly, lack of knowledge by the residents to respond to fire initially.
The disaster expert said that Dhaka was developed in an unplanned way where thousands of unapproved structures were built over the decades.
The main disappointment connected to the government agencies was — they failed to monitor the unplanned development, she said.
She found indifference of government agencies and huge corruption to be responsible for the haphazard development.
Mahbuba said a number of the approved structures deviated from the plan resulting in non-functional safety system, which equals to not having a safety system.
Best example of such structure was FR Tower where fire exit was faulty, none used fire extinguishers and the hosepipe had no connection to water sources, she added.
Buildings with every necessary safety features would never be functional if the users of the building have no training in safety measures, she said.
‘We have enough laws, now we need to implement them to make buildings safe,’ she added with a hint of frustration.
For example, she said few years ago a devastating fire gutted an Indian hotel where many Indians were killed as they started jumping out of the windows. However, none of the Japanese trapped in the building attempted such a feat.
Mahbuba said that Bangladesh’s Fire Service was sincere but they lacked capacity as over the years the nature of the city and structures have changed. So fire fighters need special logistic and trained manpower to face the new challenges.
‘Fire Service should develop capability to fight all sorts of fire,’ she said.
Mahbuba noted that fire in high-rise building is now a challenge for fire service because without proper equipment fire fighting in building was not possible.
She said that fire service should develop a system to respond to the crisis during a fire incident within a very short time since traffic jam was acute in Dhaka.
She suggested setting up of more stations or mobile duty outposts at different points.
She also asked the government to reform the lifesaving force institutionally as the force was under home ministry though their activities are related to disaster management and relief ministry and local government body is the leading agency during any disaster.
‘Local government bodies have skills to respond to rural disaster while urban disaster is an altogether different issue,’ said the disaster expert.
Regular fire drill was important. Such drills would prepare people for any disaster because during a disaster panic spreads among the people for which they fail to find their way out, she added.
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