The incident of a massive fire at Mont Blanc Apartments in Mumbai in which seven people lost their lives on Friday night, has brought to the fore fire safety issues of residential societies. Even after making it mandatory for all residential societies to carry out a fire audit every six months, the fire brigade department claimed that only five per cent of the residential societies have conducted a fire audit so far.
According to the Maharashtra Fire Prevention & Life Safety Act, 2008, it is mandatory for all residential societies to carry out a fire audit. However, the civic administration does not have the mechanism to identify which societies have carried out the fire audit. Hence, the administration finds it difficult to take action against the errant societies.
Prashant Ranpise, deputy chief fire officer of Pune fire brigade, said, “The district collector had held a meeting in 2010 regarding fire audit of residential societies in which it was decided that the agencies carrying out fire audit of societies will charge only Rs1,000 per building. Till date the charges are the same. However, hardly any residential societies come forward for fire audit. In Pune Municipal Corporation limits, only five per cent of the societies conduct fire audit.”
The state act empowers civic authorities to take action against those residential societies which fail to carry out fire audit. However, the fire brigade department claimed that shortage of manpower makes it difficult for it to identify such societies.
“It is very easy to keep check on the fire audit of commercial establishments as they have to obtain a No-Objection Certificate every year and so they have to approach the fire brigade with the audit. However, such a certificate is not mandatory for housing societies. Our one fire officer has to cover an area of 25 square kilometres, which makes it very difficult for him to check societies in such a huge area,” Ranpise said.
Ranpise added that at present the fire brigade is concentrating on checking fire fighting system in educational institutes and hospitals and in the next phase a special drive will be carried out to check fire fighting system in residential societies.