95pc buildings in Blue Area vulnerable to fire

ISLAMABAD, March 11:

English: ISE Towers, Islamabad, Pakistan

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“We have almost completed the fire auditing of commercial buildings in Blue Area,” said Mohammad Hammad, an assistant director in the disaster management directorate of Capital Development Authority (CDA), while talking to Dawn on Sunday.He said according to their survey fire safety arrangements had been put in place only in the newly-constructed high-rise buildings while the situation in the old structures remained quite pathetic.

Islamabad is the first city in the country where Building Standards for Fire Prevention and Life Safety 2010 was enforced in January 2011. A grace period of six months (till July 26) was given to the owners of high-rise buildings to incorporate the safety
measures in their buildings.

The official said initially his department had started fire auditing of commercial buildings in Blue Area while some under-construction buildings in other parts of the city were also being checked to ensure fire safety measures/apparatus were being
included in them.

According to the survey, in most of the buildings there were no water sprinklers and outdated fire extinguishing cylinders were being used.Similarly, most of them have no emergency escape routes and only one staircase was available for exit in case of
fire.

It has also been observed that unsafe electric work in old buildings can cause short circuiting and fire accidents.

When asked what they checked during the fire auditing, the official said in old buildings in which major modifications could not
take place, minimum safety measures were being ensured, including firefighting equipment, smoke detectors and water sprinklers.      “We suggest some steps for protection of the buildings which their owners have to adopt in a specific time and in case of non-compliance the defaulters will be fined,” the official said.

“We have served notices on the owners of unsafe buildings and warned them to meet the guidelines. After three notices, we will go for cancellation of their plots,” he maintained.

The fire audit, which is being conducted to check each and every building except houses, will take at least one year to cover the entire federal capital.

When contacted, a senior office-bearer of Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ICCI), Munawar Mughal, said CDA did not cooperate with the traders’ community in improving conditions in old structures.

“When a fire erupted at Beverly Centre, we requested the CDA to provide an alternative staircase but it refused. We continued our demand and finally succeeded in getting approval for this,” he said.

Mr Mughal said fire safety measures should have been incorporated in the CDA building laws when Blue Area was established.

It may be noted that the CDA directorate of building control service notified fire safety standards for three categories of
buildings – II, III and IV.

The category-II includes two-storey buildings, industries and all other non-residential buildings except farmhouses; in category-III, non-residential buildings up to ground floor plus five-storey are included, whereas category-IV comprises all
high-rise buildings of ground floor plus six-storey and above.

Source: http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/12/95pc-buildings-in-blue-area-vulnerable-to-fire.html