Sunday, September 26, 2021

Ensure safety

When a structure is raised with the purpose of providing specialized service to the public, the practice is that it has to obtain No Objection Certificate (NOC) from a number of Government agencies including the Fire and Emergency Services Department. Educational institutions from the primary schools to university, dispensaries, hospitals, cinema halls, auditoriums and places of public gathering all come under the purview of F&ES. The purpose of such certification is to ensure that the structure where a large number of people are coming together is safe for their entry and sitting. The F&ES has laid down certain norms that need to be met by every such institution. Unfortunately most of the hospitals/nursing homes in the State do not have fire safety measures in place. This is a big risk which any institute should never take. Likewise, the same is witnessed in schools, colleges and the universities. This is particularly important for institutions in districts like Kohima, Mokokchung, Tuensang, etc., which have cold weather. Here houses and structures, private or public, all are made mostly by timber, which is a combustible commodity. Fires, particularly in winter are very common in these areas, and it takes a heavy toll more often than not. Though some change is visible showing that people want to depend less on the use of timber and are opting for bricks and concrete, yet the roofs, balconies, windows, doors and ceilings mostly have to be of timber. All these are prone to catching flames and turning into a massive fire. We have had tragedies in the past in which fatalities took place when huge fire broke out in a public building. Precautionary and anti-fire measures are a safety against such calamities. It is the responsibility of medical and educational authorities to approach the F&ES for providing safety measures and then issue NOC. There is hardly a hospital or an educational institution that has even applied for NOC and this is a practice against the established norms. It is also not known whether educational institutions or medical authorities are cooperating with the F&ES authorities on fire-safety norms. But it is a fact that most educational institutions or nursing homes/hospitals in the State do not follow fire safety regulations. And it is immensely risky to leave our educational institutions unprotected by safety measures against any tragic happening from an unexpected fire. Having said that it is unfortunate that the Fire and Emergency Services in the State is not receiving the due importance it should from the Government. Take the case of the Dimapur Fire Station, the city which has the highest number of fire incidents as well as other emergencies every year in the State. As exposed in this paper, the Dimapur fire station building is on the verge of collapse, and forcing the brave firemen to work from such building is criminal negligence. “It (fire station) is going from bad to worse every year… water is seeping inside rooms from the roof, while cracks are getting bigger and bigger,” the office in-charge of the fire station told this paper. Frustrated he went on to add that maybe in the next Dimapur District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) meeting, he should place a request to the authorities to come to the firemen’s rescue when they are buried under the debris of the fire station when it collapses. The point is when the very office building of the authority that is entrusted to give clearance for safety of a building is itself on the verge of collapse and a disaster waiting to happen, it does not inspire confidence in other about the capability of that office. Indeed the Government has to react to this situation. Also a mechanism has to be evolved at the level of the Government to ensure that all public gathering places, be it offices, hospitals, schools, universities, convention centres, community halls and other places must have safety measure in place and there should be periodic check to ensure that all safety measures are in place. All precautionary measures have to be taken in hand to provide maximum security to the people at large. At the same time, it is necessary to have a standing directive for all institutions of what preventive step shall have to be taken in the event of a fire engulfing the structure all of a sudden.