Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology civil engineering Professor Dr Mehedi Ahmed Ansary said that government should resort to third party vetting to check fire safety issues in buildings.
He said that almost all the buildings have different types of flaws considering fire safety. Those who have perfect design and drawing, they did not install the safety equipments accordingly.
Ansary said with some buildings fire safety fixtures and fittings are included in the drawings while the real buildings lack some of the features. This is due to sheer negligence and ignorance.
For example, he said in FR Tower we saw that fire extinguishers, the fire exit and the hosepipe were all there but none of them were properly installed and, more importantly, maintained.
During the visit we found that the fire exit was narrow and the fire door was not built accordingly. As a result, the building users could not use the exit, he added.
‘Some people tried to use the hosepipe but it was not connected to water supply lines, he said.
He also believed that if they practiced fire drills on a regular basis, which would have been useful during the fire. There was no ‘panic door’ in the building and the steel doors were found locked. Many people could have run to safety had the fire exit been installed properly.
There existed a lack of monitoring to implement the existing rules and the law regarding safety. Specially, the national building code was not followed.
He said if the government shared some responsibility of implementation of the law with a third party, the situation could improve.
He said recently two major fire incidents — one at Old Dhaka’s Chawk Bazar, which killed 70 people, and another at Dhaka’s Banani, which killed 26 people — provided for different learning experiences.
His emphasis was on a ‘passive system’ rather than an ‘active system’.
‘Fire service may take 30 minutes to reach the spot, but time is important. During these first 30 minutes, in-house system should be enough to fight the fire,’ he said citing it as passive system.
House should be built in a way that during the first half an hour residents should be able to fight the fire to save their lives and properties.
He said the active fire fighting would start by fire service.
Ansary said that we have laws regarding this management but, unfortunately, none of them are implemented.
‘Bangladesh National Building Code 1993 and the Fire Prevention and Extinction Act 2003 must be followed to make houses safe,’ he added.
In 2011, he conducted a survey on 53 buildings ranging between eight and 24 storeys, which were issued fire NOCs, and found that only four buildings followed the approved design.
He believed government had neither the will nor skilled professionals to monitor compliance.
‘To overcome the flaws government should introduce third party vetting which has become the norm in the garment sector, he said.
Any registered private farm who has submitted the drawing and design of a building would monitor the construction work to ensure whether the building was constructed following the approved design.
He said the companies should have civil engineers, architects, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, fire engineers and field engineers to check the safety issues.
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