The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Mumbai fire brigade have been facing criticism after a series of massive fire in the city. This has led the civic body to re-think on the norms and explore ways to decentralise the process of issuing fire safety compliance certificates.
Not only this but with a view to bring in low rise buildings across the city under the purview of fire safety compliance rule, the civic body is also exploring self-certification (fire safety compliance).
Post Kamala Mills compound fire tragedy, which killed 14 people, the Mumbai fire brigade got a proper Standard Operational Procedure (SoP) in place.
The application for an NOC first goes to the BMC’s medical health officer and simultaneously to the assistant engineer building after they verify the structure for any violations and clear it.
Then it reaches to the Mumbai Fire Brigade. The compliance is verified by a physical inspection of the site. "It is not possible to inspect each and every building in a city like Mumbai, but we are in the process to have software in place that will send reminder messages to owners of the buildings to submit fire compliance self-certification," said a senior BMC official.
The incidence of building fires has increased in the last few years. The fire incidents has caused damaged several buildings and lives including Gokul Niwas in Kalbadevi, Restro Bar in Kamla Mill compound, a godown in Dongri, City Center Mall in Nagpada.
Issues such as unauthorized constructions and alterations in the buildings became a major cause of concerns after these fire accidents, and 'No Objection' certificate issued by the fire brigade at the end of the inspection of the fire brigade was questioned by public representatives and activists.
The BMC has drafted a fire safety policy for buildings up to 30 meters high or low rise. The draft will now be submitted to the Municipal Commissioner for his opinion and administrative approval.
The fire brigade inspects the fire-fighting system in multi-storey/high rise buildings and issues 'no objection' certificates. After inspection, the defects/violations in the system are brought to the notice of the person concerned and a ‘no objection’ certificate is issued subject to rectification/compliance. However, there is no re-checking / audit of whether the system has rectified or not.
"Violations are pointed out after an accident and firefighters who risk their lives, become the target of criticism. It always claimed by the BMC that re-inspection/ audit is not possible due to insufficient manpower in the fire brigade. However there has to be some SoP in place for this," said Bhavana Mistry, a social activist and resident of Lower Parel.
In the draft proposal the BMC is looking at making a provision for self-certification, which they can submit to the Mumbai fire brigade. Meaning building owners and tenants will be allowed to carry out structural inspections of buildings through a private agency on BMC's panel.
"We are exploring at introducing the system self-certification. However we have just given it a thought and it still needs a final approval. However the major aim here is to de-centralise the process of issuing fire safety compliance NOC. We are looking at many options to bring the multi window system to a single window system. It will be helpful to Fire Brigade as well as beneficial for citizens who have to run from pillar to post to get NOC," said Suresh Kakani, Additional Municipal Commissioner.
He added, "The draft proposal is still in the process of being finalised and will be tabled at multiple levels for final nod. However, the decision has to be taken keeping in view the population of Mumbai, number of buildings and limited manpower in the Mumbai fire brigade."
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