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16 May, 2019 12:12:16 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 16 May, 2019 12:06:49 PM

Most shopping malls lack fire safety measures

Faisal Mahmud, Dhaka
Most shopping malls lack fire safety measures

With shoppers getting ready to throng malls and markets and businesses getting ready their products for display, it is not difficult to catch the vibes of Eid-ul-Fitr, the largest religious festival of the nation. But are these shopping malls and markets well-equipped to combat fire?

Unfortunately, most of the shopping malls and markets lack fire safety measures, putting lives of people under risk during the time of increased footfall.

Following the tragic fire incident at FR Tower in Banani on March 28, questions have been raised over the issue of fire safety, especially at high-rise buildings. Incidentally, just two days after the FR Tower fire, another fire broke out at the Gulshan DCC market, in which 291 shops were gutted.

In 2017, after a devastating fire broke out in the same Gulshan DCC market, the Fire Service and Civil Defense (FSCD) conducted a survey on fire safety measures in shopping malls across the capital. The survey revealed a grim statistics: out of 1,126 small, medium and large-size markets as well as shopping malls in the capital, only 46 had proper fire safety measures, making over 96 per cent of the shopping malls prone to fire risk.

FSCD director Shakil Newaz told The Independent that their survey found 619 of the markets “highly vulnerable” and 400 “vulnerable” to fire. “From the Fire Service, we have given them letters asking them to take proper fire safety measures. But we aren’t the only authority. Rajuk and the city corporations need to be proactive and take action too,” he said.

After the FR Tower fire incident, the government promptly asked Rajuk and FSCD to start inspecting the fire safety of the high-rise buildings in the capital.

Talking with The Independent, Abul Kalam Azad, member (Development) of Rajuk, said they were instructed to inspect only buildings having more than 10 floors. “In the last one and a half months, we’ve conducted the survey and found a total of 1,823 high-rise buildings that have either almost no fire safety devices or unsatisfactory level of fire safety,” he added.

He also said those buildings were served notices by the Rajuk and they were asked to install proper fire safety measures within three to six months. “We’ll again send our surveillance team to find out whether fire safety systems in those buildings have been installed or not,” he added.

Whenasked about the fire safety of markets and shopping malls, Azad said they did not take any measure to find out the fire safety condition in shopping malls. “Some of the buildings with more than 10 floors are shopping malls. They don’t have any fire safety measures,” he added.

Experts have long been saying that most of the buildings in the capital do not have proper fire safety measures.

Prof. Mehedi Ahmed Ansari, a teacher of the civil engineering department of BUET and  also director of the Bangladesh Network Office for Urban Safety (BNUS) of BUET,  told The Independent that most shopping mall owners do not even know the rules regarding fire safety at their establishments.

The amended Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC) has made two stairs mandatory for a shopping mall accommodating 50 to 500 people, three stairs for 500 to 1,000 people, and four stairs for 1,000 plus shoppers. However, they found that those conditions are not being followed in most of the cases.

According to the Fire Protection Act 2003, every floor of the shopping malls, where more than 1,000 people visit, should have at least two fire extinguishers, hydrant points, water reservoirs and a full water tank on top.

Besides having equipment, the markets should have their own firefighting team and must conduct drill on a regular basis. The fire-fighting units must have necessary training to respond quickly when a fire breaks out and conduct regular drill in accordance with the fire service department’s instructions.

Porf. Ansari said the average daily footfall in a multi-storied mall with 300 shops is around 8,000 people. “Hence, the fire alarm system is very important in such places,” he added.

He said that malls must have a robust firefighting system on all floors, a fire alarm system, multiple escape routes and several lifts. He further said passive safety measures included fire doors, fire lifts, and air-conditioning ducts with dampers, among others. “It’s very important to take preemptive action. Otherwise, another tragic incident will happen and once again we’ll swing into some momentary action,” he added.




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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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