The Maharashtra government has asked all government offices, municipal corporations, municipalities and special planning authorities to complete a fire safety assessment within a month.
Similarly, it has instructed private buildings, including cinema halls, hospitals, commercial complexes, malls and star hotels, to file fire safety audit reports by September 30.
The urban development department has issued two separate circulars on checklists for carrying out fire safety audits in both government and private buildings across the state. The trigger is the June 21 fire at the state secretariate building, better known as Mantralaya, in which three floors were damaged.
“The audit can be carried out by fire officers and also by registered auditors at the Maharashtra Fire Services (a government body that regulates fire departments across the state). The government and private buildings will have to upgrade fire-fighting appliances and mechanism after the audit,” a senior government official, who did not want to be identified, told Business Standard.
Private buildings need to conduct fire safety audits in January and July every year, the official added.
Added Gulam Zia, national director-research and advisory services at real estate service provider Knight Frank India: “Historically, the authorities have been reactive, and not pro-active, to the needs of modern development. Fire-fighting rules are amended only when developers push for high rises.”
A bigger problem, according to him, is the failure to comply with “whatever rules we have.” “The owners or the societies, too, don’t comply with the norms because of the maintenance charges, and rarely conduct the drills and audits to keep the systems running. What we have as a result is disasters-in-waiting practically on every building.”
Yomesh Rao, director, YMS Consulting, said Mumbai, in particular, had thousands of high-rise buildings that had been provided with fire-fighting appliances.
However, not more than five per cent of them might have opted for annual maintenance contracts from fire consultants, though almost every building would have annual maintenance contract for elevators.
“Most of the developers in Mumbai fulfill the fire regulatory requirements. Fire-fighting mechanisms are installed and handed over to the societies. However, there is no monitoring mechanism thereafter. Onus therefore lies on societies and occupants, who, in order to save costs on maintenance, do not upgrade or maintain these fire appliances,” Rao said.