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Fire Management

Still A Far Cry In Bangladesh

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Rifat Zafreen :
Last few fire incidents especially Banani blaze showed us how unprepared we were in handling fire incidents especially in Dhaka. In comparison to our capacity high-rise buildings are becoming death trap for us as most of the buildings do not have fire alarms, sprinklers, planned exits and evacuation route during emergencies. Every time after having any fire incident, we use to blame each other endlessly without taking effective steps and accordingly forget everything and get used to again with the same faulty system, while we should learn from each case and take proper action. Repetition of the similar incidents, sometimes in the same building, tells us how much we did learn after the first incident.
Bashundhara incident, BSCE building fire (2007, 2014 and 2015), Nimtoli incident (2010), Churihatta incident (2019), Banani FR Tower incident (2014) and DSCC Market Gulshan (2017 and 2019) are some of the remarkable and most tragic incidents from which we did not learn fire management. Banani FR Tower incident this year was no different from the 2007 BSCE incident that BSCE building had no planned evacuation route along with having power detection equipment. Those who were the occupants of the building did not know how to react during emergency.
According to a Fire Service official, a few occupants of the building saw fire extinguishers but did not know how to use them. The horrific fire panicked the occupants and some of them manoeuvred dangerously using a cable that goes to another building across the road. Some occupants jumped from the building and lost their lives. Some of the occupants tried to escape from the building taking huge risks of eventually lost their lives. They did not know how to use the fire extinguishers and there was no way to escape using the stairs. Though a fire exit was installed in 2007 in the FR Tower, but how much attention was paid to fire alarms and fireproof exits, is unknown. The building has caught fire at least three times since then.
In the developed countries fire drills gets administered every month in most of the buildings. This practice helps the occupants not to get panicked even during real incident. Everyone can react how one is supposed to do in that case. Thus regular fire drills help everyone prepare mentally and logistically along with increased confidence and ability to handle a real emergency situation.
We need a more robust Fire Department which will better equipped with trained and skilled manpower to operate and manage any fire operation. Conducting fire drills on a regular basis is a must now. It will help one to be prepared without getting panicked during such emergency situation. Being prepared can reduce fear, anxiety and losses caused in fire disaster. In private and government institutions employees can be given training. Like many other countries employees will be asked to complete online fire management training programs before receiving their first pay-cheque. This will help the employees become well educated about how to fight fires and react rationally during emergency situations. Educational institutions can also conduct fire drills on a regular basis so that students can carry this practice on to their professional lives. Fire alarms can be made mandatory in the residential areas.
In most cases the infrastructures in Dhaka City are very different from other megacities. But it is high time for us to learn from other megacities and to modify and make our Dhaka City more sustainable. Media has a great role to play in this case in order to create awareness. Our individual awareness and effort will result a nationwide awareness in fire management as it has been a crying need for Dhaka city specially. We can hope, our combined effort and awareness will build an ideal Bangladesh with an ideal megacity Dhaka in all respects and it will come true very soon.

(Rifat Zafreen, PID- Project Feature)

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