Proper fire safety protocols should be made mandatory

From Chawkbazar to Gulshan from Keraniganj to Gazipur, the fire incidents in and around Dhaka city seem to be occurring at a regular interval. Previously, in case of Chawkbazar it was callousness of home owners who put the lives of people at risk by giving out flats as warehouses for compressed canisters and chemicals. This time it was the negligence of unprofessional factory owners which caused the fire at the fan factory in Gazipur causing the death of ten people and leaving fifteen other injured. But the most astonishing part is just four days prior to the Gulshan fire there was another fire incident at a plastic factory in Keraniganj leaving twenty dead.

The validity of the plastic factory did not come up and hence no such information could be found on this; however, the validity of the Gulshan fan factory did come up. A report published in this daily said that the factory in Gulshan did not have any proper license to operate. Many are speculating that this unauthorised setting up of factories could be the key reason to causing so many fires around the capital. Moreover, according to reports from the fire service around 98 percent buildings in the capital are at risk of fire breaking out in them.

Under such circumstances one cannot help but ask—how many more lives have to be lost for a properly planned city? Does this mean that fire can break out anywhere at any time? Why isn’t proper action being taken by the government?

But, no one considers that this action is not to be taken by the government alone. The people have to come together and think for their own safety. Fire safety protocols have to be made. Both commercial office spaces and residential apartments have to be prepared with proper anti-fire protocols. But protocols are just protocols unless these are followed. Everyone has to be responsible and act responsibly to support the government.

Fire safety training should start with induction 

training on the first day of appointment of new staff. 

There should be refresher training at least once a year 

to ensure that all staff or inhabitants are familiar with the 

fire precautions for the workplace or housing and are 

reminded of the actions to take in an emergency.

There are so many awards given out to so many companies for being the best at so many things. Why isn’t there any award for the safest home or a best fire safety protocol? These should be encouraged among industrialists too so that no more such cases of fire breakouts in the country.

Another aspect of facing a fire incident that most of our fire fighters suffer from is public interruptions. The urge to help in an emergency is one of the most admirable human traits, but there are times when such well-intentioned efforts can be misplaced. One example can be the Banani FR Tower fire where enthusiastic people crowded the spot to lend a hand but it only made the situation more chaotic and inapprehensible. Under such circumstances conflagrations can be a tougher to deal with. While the instinct to help in this scenario is laudable, in cases of clearly dangerous situations such as fires it ought to be left to the professionals to do the job safely.

According to a report published by WHO about fire safety protocols, alongside various important issues which have been highlighted was the point of fire safety training for all. All employees of a business or company and every member of an apartment of housing complex should be given fire safety training by a person who is competent in the subject and who understands effective training methods. Fire safety training should start with induction training on the first day of appointment of new staff. There should be refresher training at least once a year to ensure that all staff or inhabitants are familiar with the fire precautions for the workplace or housing and are reminded of the actions to take in an emergency. More frequent training should be given where there is a high turnover of staff, or a high risk of fire.

This is something which is not at all seen in Bangladesh. The only time when we see fire fighters is when there is a fire. The government should take appropriate steps so that the more experienced personnel can share their stories with the public so that people can gather knowledge and also be prompt in playing their part in case of an emergency (until professionals arrive). 

Factory regulations should mandatorily have proper fire safety protocols in case of a fire incident. Under such circumstances, to meet the requirements of local building regulations a manual alarm system may be the minimum standard required in warehouses since there is no sleeping risk. However, there are often circumstances in which an automatic fire detection system is needed. It may also be needed where a fire could break out in an unoccupied part of the building, which prejudices the means of escape from the occupied parts. The automatic detection system should be designed, installed and maintained in accordance with the relevant standard.

These are just some of the preparatory steps which can be undertaken for the purpose of awareness and readiness in case of an incident. But above all it is individual sense of responsibility which can prevent fires from taking place whether it is at home or at a factory. This sense needs to be nurtured among the young generation as well so that they are careful at all times because like the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure. 

Above all proper training of personnel should be made mandatory in society so that if the unimaginable happens the proper actions can be taken.

Md Saifuddin Al Quaderi is working with Bangladesh Post