Hyderabad hotel fire | Limitations in safety norms add fuel to fire 


‘Structures of less than 15-metre height must also be brought under purview of Fire Service Act’

‘Structures of less than 15-metre height must also be brought under purview of Fire Service Act’

The tragic fire mishap in Secunderabad late on Monday night, in which eight lives were snuffed out, is one more grim reminder that the Telangana Fire Service Act needs to be amended to include structures of lower height too.

Monday’s mishap had its source in the basement of the building, which did not adhere to any fire norms. The basement, in fact, was an illegal addition to the sanctioned plan, thus rendering the whole building unauthorised.

Building permission for the structure housing a hotel and a showroom of electrical motor bikes was obtained about nine years ago. However, the structure was raised with many deviations, for clearance of which an application was submitted under the Building Regularisation Scheme (BRS) announced seven years ago.

The basement was one among the several violations for which clearance was sought. Subsequently, the scheme hit an impasse when it was challenged in the court of law, and was not implemented, leaving the cellar and the building illegal as per the rule book. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation has halted action against structures for which clearance was sought under the scheme, thus sparing the building and the basement.

Safety equipment not working

While the hotel upstairs and the e-bike showroom on the ground floor had some equipment of fire fighting, including sprinklers, they were not in working condition as per the report of the Fire Services department. The initial conjecture was that the fire may have started from either the e-bikes, the batteries or the generator, all three of which were kept in the basement.

Smoke from the fire spread to the upper floors, where guests were staying in the hotel rooms, asphyxiating them. Unfortunately, no smoke alarms were installed on the upper floors, sources said. Had there been inspection by the Fire department at the time of applying for BRS, the accident may have been averted.

No-Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Fire Services department is mandatory for issuance of building permission for all commercial buildings over 15 meters in height and all residential buildings over 18 meters in height, as per the norms. Structures lower than the stipulated height are not even inspected by the Fire Services department for clearance, which leaves a gaping hole in enforcement.

“All the fire mishaps in the recent past have happened only in buildings of lower height. There is little scope for fire accidents in taller structures which come into the ambit of fire norms, as they have to renew their permission from the Fire department periodically, thus requiring official scrutiny from time to time,” an official informed.

There is an urgent need for the Fire Service Act to be amended to be able to bring more structures, especially commercial ones, into its purview, the official opined.



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