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adProperty News

Safe guarding building against fire
Source : The Hindu Property Plus Published On : 2008-01-19 City : Chennai

Measures necessary to minimize danger to life and property from fire must be taken as per the current NBC 2005 code writes PROF. A.R. Santha Kumar.


          The recent fire in India’s historic trading hub Barr bazaar, where several buildings packed with tarpaulin and textile material were gutted, shows the need to implement fire safety norms especially in crowded market areas where different categories of building with respect to occupancy type coexist. Fire safety should include demarcation of fire zones classification of building based on occupancy type coexist. Fire safety should include demarcation of fire zones, classification of buildings based on occupancy with respect to fire probability, type of building construction according to fire resistance, restrictions and regulation to ensure minimizing fire break out, smoke, flame and panic. Although absolute safety against fire is difficult to achieve in practice, measures that ensures construction, occupancy and protection features that are necessary to minimize danger to life and property from fire must be implemented as per the current NBC 2005 code.


          The safety measures should be implemented under the following three categories.

Fire Prevention:

          This covers aspects pertaining to design and construction of buildings on passive fire protection measures considering various types of building materials and their fire rating based on the ability to resist fire.

Life Safety:

          This covers life safety measures in the event of fire addressing construction and occupancy features that are necessary to minimize danger to life from fire smoke, flames or panic( to avoid stampede etc.)

Fire Protection:

          This covers correct type of equipment and their installation meant for fire protection of buildings depending on classification and type of building.


Fire Prevention


            All buildings are classified according to use as residential, educational and storage etc. The city area is demarcated into distinct zones based on fire hazard inherent in the building known as “Fire Zones” The design of any building and type of material used are important factors in making a building fire resistant either against complete burnout or spread of fire. The fire resistance in hours of resistance against specified fire load in Kcal/sq.m against a certain intensity of fire. The fire resistance rating required for various components such as walls etc. of building are given in NBC code. The thickness / dimensions required for various materials of construction for achieving this rating is also codified and given in NBC 2005. Hence, we can get the designs satisfying a specified fire rating.


Life Safety


          Every building should be constructed equipped and maintained so as to avoid undue danger to life and property of occupants from fire, smoke, fumes and panic. This is achieved by the provision of proper location number size and access of openings. The provision of exits should be such that the total occupants from a particular area must be capable of being evacuated within 2.5 minutes for Type 1 construction and 1.5 minutes for (4hour fire rating) Type 2 construction (2 hour fire rating). Is this possible in certain of our cinema halls and multiplex commercial market places storing combustible materials. Lifts and escalators should not be considered as exits because they will not function during fire. The number of exits and their location and passage way should satisfy the total capacity of exit requirements, if the building is a multistory high rise structure a proper external fire staircase is desirable.


Fire Protection


            All buildings depending upon occupancy use and height should be protected by fire extinguishers, west riser, down comer automatic sprinkler installation etc. A supply of water for fire fighting should be available in an under ground or overhead static storage tank with the capacity to supply water at the rate of 10001 / min.


          Special precautions should be taken for buildings of height 15m or more. These buildings will be of 4 storeys or more. In these buildings, regular fire drills may also be practiced to evacuate people in a short period during fire. These buildings should also be provided with fire alarms. To reduce fire hazard, good house keeping both inside and outside the building shall be strictly maintained by the occupants of the building.


          Lack of water should not be a constraint for delayed action and therefore sufficient static storage should be provided. For emergencies. The user and the builders have indeed to ensure adequate systems at the site to support the fire brigade in fighting such disasters.


          Finally it should be realized that it is everybody’s responsibility to avoid starting and spread of fire!


                   The author is Emeritus professor, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras, and former Dean, Anna University.



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