‘One out of every 4 schools does not have periodic fire safety clearances’
However, many of them have conveyed to the fire department that they shall fulfill the necessary safety requirements by the end of the upcoming summer vacation — which has been assumed to be a deadline — and the ones failing to do so may be served notices, said the source.
“Presently, around 70 to 75 percent schools in Delhi fulfill the fire safety requirements. Many schools that haven’t yet obtained the fire safety clearance, have communicated to us that they shall fulfill the requirements during the upcoming summer vacation, as it is easier to take up construction and maintenance work in the absence of students in the school premises. After this, we expect to take up the fire safety clearance rate somewhere between 80 and 85 percent,” said the source.
He further said: “After the vacation period, the fire department shall make a list of schools who fail to adhere to the deadline regarding such an important issue and a meeting shall be held. If needed, we will serve them notices.”
According to the new provisions added to the Delhi Fire Service Act and Rules during the Commonwealth Games (and implemented from January 1, 2011), all residential buildings above 15 metres need to get a fire safety clearance in every five years. For other buildings — including schools, offices, commercial hubs and factories — the exercise has to be repeated in every three years.
So, the periodic fire safety clearance process for many schools is in fact pending for as long as the past one year. “It is the school who has to give us a call once they think they are fit for the fire safety audit,” the source added.
Some of the rules applicable for school premises include mandatory provision of two doors for every classroom if number of students exceed 40; a fire safety system that includes a manual or automated smoke-detecting alarm and a tank pump; a hose pipe network for buildings beyond two floors; and sprinklers if the building has a basement measuring more than 200 square metres. A minimum <g data-gr-id="55">six metre</g> gap from boundary walls on all four side is also needed to be provided, informed a senior official of Delhi Fire Services.
<g data-gr-id="41">In</g> July 16, 2004, as many as 94 students of the primary section of a school at Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu were burnt to death in their classroom as the thatched roof caught fire. The incident set alarm bells ringing across the country and a fire-safety clearance became mandatory for Delhi schools from 2005 onwards. This was later incorporated into the rulebook, mentioned above, with further specifications.
In April 2012, as many as 1,700 out of the 5,000-odd schools in the city were reportedly found to be ill-equipped in fighting fire.
They even include around <g data-gr-id="36">a 100 upmarket schools</g>. By then, 3,914 schools had reportedly approached the Delhi Fire Services for clearance, out of which 2,214 actually managed to get it. This shows how nothing has changed in the past three years, said a source.