Of the five senses of sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste the first, rightly, is the sense of sight. Without vision, all the skills and strengths of the human being are rendered practically useless. Robberies, murders, burglaries and all sorts of crimes are mostly committed under cover of darkness. Evil itself, is often described as darkness. Therefore, man must protect his visibility at all times to be alerted of impending danger in time and take evasive or defensive action as warranted.
In case of fire or electric failure, it is the sense of sight that gets impaired due to darkness or smoke, or both. No matter how young, agile or strong you may be, you are about the same as a doddering blind aged man trying to escape sure death in a matter of seconds. If one were to scrutinize the loss of life and limb that have occurred down history due to fire accidents or blackouts in enclosed spaces, it becomes clear that two factors, panic and blindness are the chief causes.
They say, “Well begun is half done” but in case of fire safety, well begun is far from done. If you have installed a fire extinguisher in your office but your staff is not trained on correct usage of the equipment what will happen if a fire actually takes place? Similarly, if you have used cheap paper or cardboard signs for guiding people to the exits in emergencies, they will become invisible in a power failure situation. Therefore, the NBC has some clear guidelines on proper safety equipment and their installation in all enclosed spaces from malls, multiplexes to flats and bungalows. Exigency signages must ‘glow’ in the dark and provide clear vision in smoky or hazy environments for one. Also, staff must be trained, fire drills conducted and regular maintenance of equipment done periodically in institutions or locations where people congregate or visit.
The Gujarat High Court recently, took note of a report published in ‘Ahmedabad Mirror’ about lack of fire safety arrangements in high-rise buildings in the city and asked the government to start immediate action against such structures for violations. The HC Bench said, “Prevention is better than cure.” It is a sad state of affairs when it takes a court to point out the obvious like a schoolmaster to town planners, architects, builders and developers and also political personalities who have pledged to serve the people. Because it is not just high-rises, it’s the same story with business outlets, factories, offices, malls, and housing clusters. The tendency to cut corners on exigency and fire safety even when the safety norms are mandatory as per the NBC, is the real problem. It’s only when the tragedy actually occurs, that wisdom dawns. In case of fire safety, half done equals to wholly undone. How many more deaths and infernos will it take before this realty is addressed at all levels?