'Firewall' at Vidhan Bhavan

The Mantralaya fire has urged the state legislature secretariat housed in the 20-storey Vidhan Bhavan to go on fire-safety overdrive. According to sources, an elaborate plan is being devised to avert fires in the building, including the installation of pressurised staircases, relocation of the library, closure of a canteen on the eighteenth floor and installment of the latest fire fighting equipment. 

Pressurised Staircases: Two special staircases will be added to either side of the building. These are operated on air pressure, and guarantee protection from fire by preventing flames from entering.  At present there are three narrow staircases in the building. Graphic/Amit Bandre

Soon after the Mantralaya fire, the administration went into huddle to check the condition of its fire fighting equipment, fire extinguishers, hosepipes and water connections. While the skyscraper houses chambers of the administration and offices of various state legislature committees and the legislative wings of various political parties, the structure’s five-storey canopy contains two houses — the state assembly and the state council.

The Vidhan Bhavan, which witnesses a constant flow of visitors during the budget session and the monsoon session along with cabinet members, legislators and officials from the government, has one dedicated fire officer along with a few staffers on the job.

A committee has now been formed to implement the fortification of the complex, who are working with the intention of installing pressurised staircases, said Principal Secretary Dr Anant Kalse.

“A feasibility study will be conducted before the installation of these special staircases, which are used in skyscrapers around the world. At present, Vidhan Bhavan has three narrow staircases, which might create panic and subsequent chaos for fleeing victims in case of a fire. Pressurised staircases, operated on air pressure, can guarantee protection from fire by preventing fire from entering into them,” he said.

“The committee comprises the chief fire officer of Vidhan Bhavan, a joint secretary and the chief security officer of the State Legislature. It is expected to submit its report to the presiding officers of the state legislature before going for the final decision over the protection from fire,” added Dr Kalse.

Soon after the Mantralaya fire incident, a canteen located on the 18th floor of the building was relocated to the second floor of the Vidhan Bhavan. Gas cylinders were removed from the two canteens and replaced with pipe gas connections. Radium is also being installed on the stairs, as it will help when power supply goes off.

A plan is also underway to shift the library on the sixth and seventh floors, which are stocked with thousands of rare books and references, to a location outside the building. “But since we don’t have an annex building, initially it will be shifted to the 18th and 19th floors,” said an official.

“Another feasibility study will be conducted for the expansion of the complex, with adjoining plots in the vicinity, since we don’t have enough FSI available to construct an additional structure in the present complex,” he said.

The state legislature secretariat has also decided to stop using wooden furniture, and the existing furniture will be replaced with modular furniture. “Also, scanning of important documents and files are on in full swing,” said Dr Kalse.  

Seat of change
The existing wooden furniture will be replaced by fire-proof modular furniture

Did you know?
The skyscraper houses administrative chambers, offices of state legislature committees, also legal wings of parties 

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