‘Disaster Management’ is a term many of us are familiar with. This particular term has suddenly become very popular and well known. This is because the frequency of ‘accidents’ happening around us has suddenly accelerated. Building collapses, fires, avalanches, bridge and overbridge cave ins, flooding and similar incidents have peaked across not just India, but the world.

Pessimistic as I may sound, I daresay this is expected to only increase in coming days and we can do little to reverse the trend. Let us take fire safety. The knee-jerk word that leaps to mind is extinguisher. But that is an instrument that comes to use when the fire has already happened. Disaster Management begins way before that. At the time of construction there should be an assessment of how it will hold up after so many years (life expectancy) and how to remove/replace it when its life is exhausted. Housing and official premises that may have been constructed even 10 years earlier, can become death traps over time and no one would even know or care.

Also, safety from fires, and similar unexpected threats need to be taken into account before allowing for use of any concerned enclosed premises like buildings, godowns, malls, multiplexes, shops, garages etc. Electrical wires should be checked and replaced in time to avoid short circuits that cause most in-house fire accidents. Exigency tools like emergency lights and photoluminescent signages, as mandated by NBC must be installed besides the obvious fire extinguishers and fire alarms. Stair nosing and glowing markers which shine in darkness are vital, especially in quick evacuation involving staircases in smoke or darkness situations.

Safety exit doors and pre-decided congregation venues in emergency situations need to be usable and available 24x7. No dumping stuff and blocking exits or allowing the locks to rust so that the door does not open when death is seconds away.

If you follow daily news, you will find invariable one or two major fire accident news or disaster news of different types. And that is only the tip of the iceberg. Infrastructure built decades ago are way past their expiry dates. They had no plan ‘B’ then and now their sins have come to roost.

Licenses and permits must only be issued after due diligence and minute inspection of safety protocols. Cost factors, surroundings, title and ownership issues, legal issues and so many other problems mushroom when an old construction becomes obviously unusable or unsafe. Disaster management demands that such imminent problems must be calculated well in advance and provisions made to deal with them when the time comes.

It’s not easy and we see this all around us. Disaster Management today may be an idea already too late in coming in so many cases. Disaster Management very often, finds itself hamstrung as if in a time warp.


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