Panic ensued after a fire broke out on the fourth floor of the 14-storey Tirupati Apartments opposite the landmark Mahalaxmi temple over the weekend. Fortunately, no serious injuries were reported and the nearly 120 families residing there were evacuated safely. But it should serve as a warning for the future that the fire brigade could not find any functioning firefighting equipment in the building.
A majority of residential buildings across the city have no firefighting equipment at all, in spite of rules stating that it is a must. Other societies, much like Tirupati, do hold some equipment but it is either expired or faulty. In most cases, residents are unaware of how to use it. We cannot blame an individual or even the managing committee alone for this. Residents have to come together, pool in resources — not just monetary resources, but time and energy — to and ensure up-to-date firefighting equipment in the building. They must also ensure regular fire drills are held so that residents have basic knowledge of how to evacuate in case of an emergency. It is absolutely essential people do not use the elevator in case of fire, and make their way out of the building in as orderly a manner as possible.
While state of-the-art skyscrapers have hi-tech firefighting equipment within the building itself, it is imperative that smaller housing societies take the onus of installing basic equipment. Keep stairwells and passageways free of clutter. We often see buildings with passages outside doors cluttered with belongings, children’s cycles, bedrolls and other paraphernalia — these can turn into serious obstructions to quick evacuation in case of a fire.
In Mumbai, where narrow building gates, roadside parking and cluttered bylanes hamper fire engines from reaching the spot in time, societies must take it upon themselves to become the first responders in times of a fire. Let’s not leave everything to divine providence.