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Carlton Fire - What can we learn?

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Earthquake in Haiti showed us results of bad construction practices. A 5.1 Richter scale quake is a distinct possibility in Bangalore per this study.

Separately, Carlton Towers event yesterday reflects results of potentially neglected safety infrastructure.
 
I hardly come across someone who understands the basic safety and structural requirements. So, can we try to understand what is required per existing code and educate ourselves?
 
As applied to independent homes, multi-dwelling apartments, multi-story commercial / office buildings, and large public spaces:
> What building codes currently apply (Structure, Safety and maintenance)? 
> Who is responsible for the as-built documentation?
> Who is the regulator?
> Who is ultimately responsible for any lapse?
 
If we can come up with, or point to, a simple table in understandable language, at least people can ask the right questions. We all know that, in the short term, learnings do not percolate down to regulation and enforcement in our current system. Educating the masses might be our best short-term bet.
 
I volunteer to compile info and create such a table(s) at the end of this debate, after knowledgeable Prajegalu share their expertise. Go ahead. Tell us what you know.

Comments

srinidhi's picture

who failed people at Carlton?

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We Failed them!

- We like too much of reality and instead of assisting authorities..the so called samaritans blocked traffic delaying the fire tenders..all becos our phone cameras could capture the tamasha!

- Instead of letting trained professionals handle the situation..asked inmates to make the jump to their death

- The Media was more interested in 'hot news' that their vehicles blocked airport road which inturn delayed the fire tenders..what is media projecting today? The Railway Budjet..no one even bothered about the lives lost..the radio too is running the same fun songs as they were doing yesterday morning..very sad and irresponsible!

- What are the authorities doing about it? Why did they take it so long?

- Now there are reports of stolen property from the office premises there..are we this cheap?

I passed this place at 5PM yesterday and this is a first hand account of what I saw!

This can go on..

No one had to die in this place at all..its a very sad incident!

I will help with replies here on what can be done..

srinidhi's picture

Fire related precautions..

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Reqular reviews of saftey mechanisms..for instance the smoke detectors which blink above you in offices have a life of 3-4 years only(they are radio active, if you didnt know). They need to be replaced regularly.

The sprinkler systems should also be tested and maintained regularly.

Regular Fire Drills..Mock drills need to be done mandatorily at regular intervals(half yearly) by authorities in super structures hosting offices/residences.

The fire hydrants(water pumps)  in the buildings should be able to reach the top floor in every building..builders cut corners bribing fire officers by installing low powered pumps..

Building plans should be posted at every entrance/exit indicating emergency exits clearly..lifts dont work in fire emergencies..steps are the only way to get down!

idontspam's picture

Value for life

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Simple fact is there has to be more value attached to life in India. In the face of money, life and lifestyle becomes expedient. Simple things like fire safety exits are not understood in concept but are kept as a fancy addendum. Even administrators believe having street cleaning machines, latest fire safety equipment etc is a show off not a necessity.

Building managers must be held responsible for incidents like this. In case of multiple owner tenants there always has to be a single responsible owner. Either a society or a professional building management company which can be held responsible for maintenance and training. How does BBMP collect tax for this building from single ovner or from 100 tenants? In which case they have to start enforcing single management ownership concept.

Also, I have noticed where govt/administrators have taken up enforecment seriously results are there to see. The best example is the towing away of vehicles from no parking areas, I see less violations. Keeping it up for a year or more will force the habit to tip perpetually into one of compliance. Traffic police are showing the way, will the fire and other departments catch up?

Naveen's picture

How many escape stairs in the bldg ?

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Building plans should be posted at every entrance/exit indicating emergency exits clearly

None of the news reports in print or on TV covered any details about location & no. of escape stairways - there usually are two (one at each end). How many were fitted ?

smoke detectors which blink above you in offices have a life of 3-4 years only

 

There are different types of sensors - smoke, heat or flame. We do not know what type was fitted in the building. Any indications about this ?

Either a society or a professional building management company which can be held responsible for maintenance and training

The building must have had a society since multiple units were operating from there (restaurants, showrooms, offices).

Ravi_D's picture

Let me vent it out too..

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<RANT ON>

Agree with Srinidhi partially. Yes we failed them. But they failed us too...

Govt announces 2 lakh compensation for the diseased. Is this:

> an admission of guilt or in action or

> a payment (call it what you want) to make the best out of the situation and possibly stave off law suits?

How do you like some suggesting your life is worth Rs 2 lakh?

I'm hoping the affected will join together to claim a thousand crores as compensation. Let us see what our courts say.

Also read in the papers today that the fire crew weren't up to the task either.

<RANT OFF>

Guess part of this 'business-as-usual' attitude stems from ignorance, apart from of course 'it-wont-happen-to-me' thinking. Hence this effort to collect requirements and post information. Hopefully with this info and with pictures of this unfortunate tragedy fresh in front of them (it could be me in that building!) our indifferent youth may start to ask the right questions.

Though, I have to admit, we seem to be quite happy to be typical Bangalore drivers even after seeing fatal accidents almost daily. It cannot happen to me you see....

hmajay's picture

- We like too much of reality

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- We like too much of reality and instead of assisting authorities..the so called samaritans blocked traffic delaying the fire tenders..all becos our phone cameras could capture the tamasha!

- Instead of letting trained professionals handle the situation..asked inmates to make the jump to their death

 

People have no common sense. The above should be taught to school chidren in the elementary/primary school so that at least the future generation learn  and use their common sense. 

Ajay

silkboard's picture

The case of locked fire exits

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I have noticed it in several small malls in the city, and had even called BBMP help line once to report this (in 2007, called regarding a shopping building in Marathahalli).

Forget fire sprinklers, or running water in them, in many buildings, you can't easily locate the stairs.

May be we should do a surprise safety audit of some building ourselves. Can't announce in advance, but no harm in 10-12 of us gathering at one pre-selected building, reporting all that we can to make an example.

Perhaps not right now, as the matter is hot, can wait a month or so, the time it takes for things to fade from public and BBMP's memory.

s_yajaman's picture

Why are we surprised?

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 See this news article in DH today.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/54767/bureaucrats-propose-lokayukta-disposes.html

"The Lokayukta investigation has opened a Pandora’s box of apathy and deceit where Town Planning, BBMP, BWSSB and Fire and Emergency Services departments have gone all out to misinterpret the law just to favour an individual."

"At one stage, former BBMP commissioner Subramanya had put his foot down and said “no” to the sanctioned plan. 

He had passed orders for cancellation of the plan which was already granted as there is no road of the minimum width abutting the high-rise building. But the new commissioner ignored the earlier decision and issued NoC."  

The rot starts right at the top!  

"Now, for the first time in its history, the Lokayukta has issued notices to Bharathlal Meena, BBMP Commissioner; H B Mukund, Director of Town Planning; Rangesh and Topgi, Members of Town Planning, BDA; Rama Murthy, Chairman BWSSB, and Venkata Raju, chief engineer BWSSB. The fully-built apartment stands vacant as of now".  I hope the family members of the victims also file cases of dereliction of duty against these people.

Another culpable party will the the Electricity Inspectorate knowing how they issue their certificates.  They claim they are short staffed.  That is a poor excuse. They can ask for self certification and then inspect thoroughly 20 buildings at random and have heavy penalties for any violations.  They DONT WANT to do their job.

Srivathsa

Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

idontspam's picture

At one stage,former BBMP

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At one stage, former BBMP commissioner Subramanya had put his foot down and said “no” to the sanctioned plan. 

 But the new commissioner ignored the earlier decision and issued NoC.

This is significant enough not to be ignored. What kind of hands are we putting our city in?

Are people able to see beyond their nose when it comes to what this city needs to be in 2050?

Naveen's picture

Carlton Towers- Occupants more responsible

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Whilst not disagreeing with what has been expressed against city agencies, to me this case seems more to do with greed & irresponsibility on the part of individual unit owners at Carlton towers & negligence by the building society.

The media is hell-bent on blaming civic agencies - from lack of proper rescue equipment, poor disaster management infrastructure, pathetic relief efforts to lack of enforcement of building codes.

These may be true, however, they do not raise any eyebrows at  the many more relevant unanswered questions, (some have already been raised above) :

1) Why were the staircase doors being left locked ?

2) Why were staircase location drawings not in place & people not aware of their locations ?

3) Why was diesel being stored on the rooftop ?

4) Though the building appears to have been in conformity as far as setbacks were concerned, units inside had very narrow passages - possibly due to retrofitting by owners of individual premises to increase rentable floor space. What did the building society do about these violations ?

5) The wiring within the building appears to have been modified - was the society aware of this ? Had they sought to seek approval from concerned authorities before such changes were made ?

 

I don't think it is correct to expect enforcement agencies to be present everywhere to police each building in the city. The onus is on individuals or societies to ensure that they are in compliance with relevant specs, as required by law.

Thus, the first set of questions must be directed at individual owners & the building society. Civic agencies need to be grilled after.C

s_yajaman's picture

Agree, but why do such things?

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Agree that the occupiers should have some minimum sense of responsibility towards their employees, other occupants and nearby buildings.  As an employee I think I have the right to safe premises.  My employer needs to provide this.  I think the tenants are also to blame for not checking the building out.

Safety is treated as "sissy stuff" in our culture.  How many buildings catch fire each year?  How many buildings collapse?  It always happens to others in any case.   And so the temptation to cut corners - nay entire sides of the square!  So the place meant for the fire tender to park will have a coffee shop because that space will go "waste".

In my office in Singapore we used to have quarterly fire drills.  It meant walking down 22 floors for me.   And you know what most of the Indians used to do - they used to work from home on that day!!!  Why take the pain of walking down 22  or 23 floors?  

My worst nightmare is being in a hotel fire - which is why I always check where the fire exit to my floor is, check if it opens, count the number of doors from my room to the nearest fire exit. I am seen as stupid and paranoid!  

But why do only buildings in India think it is okay to violate.  Because we know we can pay our way out of everything - even if it means shooting ourselves in the foot.  There was a report that said the Electrical Inspectorate is understaffed.  Well there are smart of ways of managing.  Have a self certification program with random checks and strict penalties.  But that means no "gimbla".   And so it will not happen.

Srivathsa

Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

srinidhi's picture

Building License Renewals

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Periodical audits by the authorities can avoid such instances.

Arent commercial vehicles sent to get their FC's regulalrly..what is the difference with a commercial establishments..

http://164.100.80.120:8080/bbmpkannada/images/howtrade/Appln%204%20TL%20Renewal_Annex-E.pdf

License renewal happens regularly for buidings by BBMP. Should they not insist on NOC from Fire autroities?

I have seen lifts in buildings being certified in Chennai by govt authorities for operation..can we not do likewise to cover all saftey stuff?

murali772's picture

too close for comfort

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@ Ravi - Guess part of this 'business-as-usual' attitude stems from ignorance, apart from of course 'it-wont-happen-to-me' thinking.

One of the victims - Siddarth Padam, highly accomplished, IIMB, ex-Infoscian, unassuming, soft-spoken, and with a ready smile - was from the apartment complex where I stay. I just finished attending the obsequies, where I was witness to the family members trying to explain to the 4 yr-old son that Papa is going away and won't be back for a while. There's a lump in my throat even as I recall the scene. It is too close for comfort.

@ Pranav - May be we should do a surprise safety audit of some building ourselves. Can't announce in advance, but no harm in 10-12 of us gathering at one pre-selected building, reporting all that we can to make an example.

The PU building had been declared unsafe eons ago. Nobody has dared to rent space in it since then. Instead of demolishing and rebuilding, the government chooses to house its offices there, including that of some of the police wings. Won't be surprised if some sections of the fire department also functions from there. So, what's the point in any such exercise?

@ Srinidhi - I have seen lifts in buildings being certified in Chennai by govt authorities for operation..can we not do likewise to cover all saftey stuff?

Like with HT electrical installations, and Boilers and Pressure Vessels, perhaps the government needs to institute an annual inspection for high rises for conformity with Fire Safety rules. And, unlike in the case of the electrical inspection, but very much like for Boilers & Pressure vessels, it has to be a raaj-less inspection - check this.
 

Muralidhar Rao
srinidhi's picture

Heres where the Govt. failed them..

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 http://www.mid-day.com/news/2010/feb/240210-carlton-towers-fire-bbmp-fire-department-blame-game.htm

 "Fire officials put the blame on BBMP for the Carlton Towers tragedy, because it had issued the Occupancy Certificate (OC) to the building, which had violated numerous by-laws"

 "Before we issue an OC the fire services have to issue a objection certificate (NOC) after conducting a thorough inspection, which they had. We have given our nod based on their opinion. Why are they blaming us now?," asked Kumar, assistant engineer, town planning, BBMP.

Wonder how much the money was!!

Naveen's picture

Carlton - Land acquired for flyover ?

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Land might have been acquired for the domlur flyover ramp from the Carlton towers compound since the flyover had been built much after the building had been constructed, thus reducing setbacks - the Midday reporter (Shiva shankar) may not have considered this when writing up the report.

This aside, this note within the report is more revealing :

Anurag Jain, president of Carlton Towers Owners Association, was evasive when asked about the norms that were flouted. "This is not the time to discuss all this. Let us concentrate about the victims and the ways to help them," he said.

Naveen's picture

Fire Precautions & Response in Apts

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Wanted to share this with you (it was posted in our yahoogroups) :

 

Fire Safety in Apartment Complexes

Since residents in apartment complexes live close, a fire effects one another much more & the higher risk is shared by many residents. Apartment fires have the potential to spread faster. Heat & smoke throughout the building might also affect safety of all residents.

Be Prepared for a Fire Emergency

  1. Install and Maintain Proper Smoke Sensors /Alarms.

    It is preferable to install smoke type alarm sensors within each house unit. Keep sensor alarms clear of dust by regularly vacuuming over /around them. Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year and replace the entire unit after ten years, or as recommended by the manufacturer.

  2. Awareness about the Building Evacuation Plan.

    Directions to Safety Exit and Fire Escape should be properly marked on each floor. Ensure that you have at least one primary route and another route in case you cannot exit through the primary route. Never block or lock the route which will trap occupants in an emergency. Ensure that your building manager posts evacuation plans in high traffic areas, such as lobbies.

  3. Compulsory Fire extinguisher in Every Apartment and in Lobbies.

    Each flat or family within an apartment must have a fire extinguisher and each adult member in the family must be familiar & know how to use it. If possible, use of a common floor asset maintenance tracker to setup reminders for refilling of these extinguishers is preferable.

  4. Have Regular Fire Drills.

    Have regular fire drills (a drill is recommended atleast once in six months) to train community members & be familiar with procedures for handling fire emergencies, familiarity with evacuation plans & for easily recognizing fire alarm tones.

  5. Get your belongings and Home Insured.

    It is preferable to insure your property and appliance against fire, theft and other such accidents.

In a Fire Emergency

  1. Call the Fire Rescue Department and Ambulance.

    Do not assume that someone may have already called the fire department. Have Emergency Contacts posted next to the Phone and keep these contacts saved in your cell phone.

  2. Alert all family members.

    Alert all members of your family and make your way out together. Never try to salvage items or belongings when a fire break out. If your primary exit is blocked, use the other exit to vacate your premises. Never open a door if you think it is hot. Stay calm, do not panic and help others to control the situation. Once you are out & safe, do not get back to the house unless fire service informs you that it is safe.

  3. Do not use lift.

    During a fire in your building or apartment complex, leave the premises by the nearest available stairs exit and close all doors and windows behind you. Never use the elevator for vacating your premises or the apartment. Do not open any other doors other than the one you need to vacate the apartment.

  4. If trapped in your room or building.

    If you trapped in your room or building during a fire, try to stop smoke and fire getting into your room. Use towels, blankets or spare cloths to block the gaps in the door. Go to a window, shout out for help and once you are heard by the fire services and help is on the way, stay close to the floor beside the window. Stay calm and co-operate with fire services, do not try to jump or run.

  5. If your clothes are on fire.

    Stop, drop and roll if your clothes are afire. Do not panic or try to run, it will worsen the fire and lead to more injuries or burns.

When NOT to use a Fire Extinguisher

If you cannot easily and quickly put out a fire then it's too dangerous to try. You should not waste time trying to use the fire extinguisher if:

  • You aren't sure it's the right extinguisher for the type of fire.
  • You're too nervous or forgot how to use it.
  • The fire is bigger than a typical trash can.
  • Flames are spreading quickly.
  • The fire seems like it could block your escape route.
Ravi_D's picture

Safety Audits & Blame Game

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I second SB's idea of Praja style get together in a public building; not necessarily to Audit, but more from a learning perspective. Do we really know what to expect, and what to look for? I'm not sure we do yet. From bits and pieces I've picked up from media and the internet, there seem to be quite a bit of confusion on legal requirements (topic of my original posting). Still searching. Will post as soon as I manage something useful.

@Murali:

...where I was witness to the family members trying to explain to the 4 yr-old son that Papa is going away and won't be back for a while...

That breaks my heart. I've a 4 yr old too, and it could have been me in there so easily. That is something we don't seem to get at all. Somehow, most believe it cannot specifically happen to them. Ignorance? Recklessness? Just don't care?? Like IDS said, we need to value our lives much much more than this.

@srinidhi: So the blame game starts... Next thing you know, the mud-slinging competition gets so hot everyone forgets the real issue itself.

Promod Kapur's picture

Fire Audit - CITIZENS' AUDIT

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I totally agree with the suggestion that some of us should form an audit team, visit apartments and multi storey buildings (selected few), not only to check the systems, but also to interact with the management to organise drills. But we should also know what to look for and what to do in the event of fire. May I suggest a structured plan to achieve this:

1. Form a core team, if possible comprising of two or three persons from various locations of Bangalore

2. Interact with Fire Services Department and understand what they expect from every high rise building or multi dwelling unit buildings. That will become our check list.

3. Ask Fire Services Department to arrange for us a half day  workshop where the core team gets "educated". If possible, we could ask them to bring in reps from Police (both L&D and Traffic), BBMP and BWSSB, to take part in the workshop, with their inputs.

4. Spread out to our respective locations, and select few buildings for conducting "citizens audit". It will be essential that when we select the buildings, we get full cooperation from the management, and therefore we must make sure that they are on the same page as us on the objective of ou exercise.

5. Make a report, hand over copies to :

(a) Management

(b) Occupants

(c) Fire Department

(d) Any other, including Media

(e) Local Police Station

I also suggest a similar "Citizens' Audit"  through a separate team to do a "Security Audit" of selected establishments, like Malls and Schools. After all we are not immune to both Fire hazards and Terror hazards.

Two  months ago, I had met the Home Secretary (GOI), Mr GVK Pillai and suggested that Fire and Security drills should become a part and parcel of citizens training, and that comprehensive drill instructions should be prepared by the Centre and passed on to all states, more particularly as a syllabus in Schools and Colleges. That is the only way we Indians can become security conscious. He appreciated the suggestion and promised to pursue. When and How is any body's guess - but hope it is sooner than later. Till then it is a great idea to make a beginning at our level.

Major Kapur

 

 

silkboard's picture

Let us do this then, who is game?

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This is one doable thing, and we better do something while the matter is hot.

Shall we start with this item first (picking from Major Kapur's list) ?

Interact with Fire Services Department and understand what they expect from every high rise building or multi dwelling unit buildings. That will become our check list.

Need just 2 people to do this necessary first step - either organize a meeting or get hold of a published fire safety manual from state or city government. Publish a version here on gyan, or on your favorite bangalore website.

Once we have this in place, we can try a "citizen's audit" on one building. that will be the next step.

Ravi_D's picture

I'll join....

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I'm not so sure of owner's support, especially if we went talking of an 'Audit'. I know my building is lacking, why would I let you come, find out, and get me into trouble? In any case, no harm in trying though. A public place may be better (say the local post office!, train station or something similar).

Have been gathering info on Building/Fire codes in India over the last two / three days. Just managed to put my hands on a soft copy of the National Building Code (1160 pages!, 93 MB PDF). Part 4 deals with Fire & Life Safety, and from what I understand is the code bible for all buildings in India. Not sure if any other local rule book exist.

How can I share a 90MB file with you SB?

Ravi

Ravi_D's picture

Interesting links...

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This one is an IIT Kanpur analysis paper on National Building Code Part 4. Has both the code and expert commentary (done for Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority). This can give us most of the info related to Fire and Safety.

A Hindu Article related to building safety issues. 

This one is an article on building codes for apartments.

idontspam's picture

Raaj-less self certification

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Like murali says we have to go for Raaj-less inspections, I do not believe the Govt departments can ever catch up to the type of buildings that are coming up, and the city also cannot be held hostage to laggards. How do we balance, I personally believe self certification proposed by Sri is a good way to go. An employee has the right to a safe and secure workplace and employees should start taking their management to task. Rat your mgmt out to fire dept if you feel insecure.

To rat we need to know how a safe building should look like. So what is the best way to impart that knowledge? in School? In college? Or before joining work in a multi storied building (classified per standard building code) like the mandatory plane safety instruction?

Oh yeah and teach people not to hold lungi's and ask people to jump 8 stories.

n's picture

Building code

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The NBC is a code or guide. It becomes legal tender as soon as the entity (State, municipality, dist. admin., fire dept. etc.) accept the implementation of the code in-toto or with appropriate, local area-specific amendments (similar to road or any other standards). Had mentioned firefighting priority earlier. The entity needs to pass an ordinance / legal notification (gazette?) or some such legal document accepting implementation of the code. BBMP is responsible for issuing building permits and stop / fine violations though they seem to outsource some of the duties to PWD. Refer whole article below - very relevant. Of course, the fire department is another agency that is supposed to inspect, permit plans, and inspect that buildings adhere to the plans.
"
How many floors can be built on a site measuring 30 x 40 in Bangalore? The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is quite clear about it. “Maximum three floors. If anybody exceeds this, then it is a violation of the building bye-laws,” explained the Palike’s Joint Director of Town Planning Thirukangowdru.

The building built in violation of bye-laws. DH photo/S K DIneshBut thanks to the new buzz about Akrama-Sakrama scheme, which is for regularising illegal structures, these guidelines have been thrown to the wind and building violations have become the order of the day in many parts of Bangalore. In Nandidurga Extension, a six-storeyed ‘apartment’ has come up on a 30 x 40 feet site. As the site is small, there is no space created to accommodate a lift.
Neighbours said this apartment will have flats as well as commercial establishments.
Another builder is also constructing a six-storeyed building in the same area. Since these structures are setting precedence for others, the worried neighbours formed a group and approached the Lokayukta.

Neighbours complained that the BBMP assistant engineer’s office is hardly a few metres away from the construction site. However, the assistant engineer turned a blind eye towards the violation of the building by-laws. When the local residents complained against the illegal construction and about the assistant engineer’s silence, the BBMP woke up to stop the construction work.

The only action BBMP took was to repatriate him to PWD. Now another assistant engineer has been appointed at Nandidurga Extension and another multi-storeyed building is coming up on a 30 x 40 site.

The story is being repeated across the City. The engineers in the BBMP are least concerned about action against them. They know well that the BBMP cannot initiate action against 90 per cent of them because their parent organisation is not the BBMP but the Public Works Department of the State government. “The maximum we can do is transfer them to their parent organisation and suggest their bosses to suspend them,” said a BBMP official. Corrupt officers are gradually eating up the City, he added.

Taking up the case seriously, the BBMP commissioner recently issued a directive to the engineers that he would file a criminal case against them if they allow building bye-law violations and do not report the matter to their higher-ups.

When contacted in this regard, the BBMP Commissioner Bharatlal Meena confirmed that such buildings were illegal and such structures could not be allowed to stand for long. When asked whether the BBMP can take action against those engineers who are working in the Palike on deputation, the commissioner said the Palike may not initiate action directly, it can recommend to their parent organisation to take disciplinary step against them. In addition to it, the BBMP has decided to file criminal cases against the engineers as well.

"
source http://www.deccanherald.com/content/36893/six-storeyed-apartment-constructed-1200.html


 


n's picture

Professional engineers

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In the US, architects sign and seal the documents thus taking responsibility for some portion of the work (I don't exactly know the limits of liability). This eases the burden somewhat on the municipal building approval authorities. Ditto the case for structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and civil aspects (professional engineers get the moniker after they write an exam, pass it and obtain the seal usually after 4 years of work experience). Architects make sure that the building follows the fire provisions of the building code. Municipalities typically mandate distinction between small residential buildings (one to two story not exceeding certain square footage and height) not needing sign/seal and all other structures needing them. Of course, inspections, penalties and litigation redressal are also much stronger.


Naveen's picture

Subversion - The bane in our society

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" there were many violations of the sanctioned building plans, primarily by those who purchased space there "

" Unauthorized shops and grills of a restaurant also blocked the fire exit. The hoarding around the building blocked the movement of fire tenders "

- Click here for more in TOI.

No matter how many levels of enforcement, or how frequent the inspections, our greedy & immoral civil society always seeks to subvert order & find ways to break laws & rules just as easily - & pay bribes as a routine necessity in life.

It's easy to blame BBMP, Fire dept & PWD, but the real problem lies with our society that makes no bones whatsoever about violating every code, irrespective of economic standing.

This case is a classic example of this principle. The building's occupants were all wealthy & better off than most. But they still tried to get away with many violations in basic safety. The restaurant/s on the ground floor - they really had no reason to violate any laws since they catered to the best of clients, deriving better profit margins, but they still saw it fit to block stairway exit/s.

Why ? Because this is what there is in everyone's blood :  "Laws are not to be followed implicitly since they infringe on my well being, they are to be treated with contempt & disrespect. In short, they are there to be broken & violated" as & when they cause inconvenience to me !

srinidhi's picture

30X40 towers will fall..

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..like this!

These are latest pictures from Chile earthquake.. it happened at 8.8..in blr a 7 is enough!

Coming back to the Carlton towers arrests are being made for the incident:

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/55386/4-held-fire-mishap.html

But where are the arrests for the BBMP and Fire Officials who issued the NOC and the OC ???

"A conditional No Objection Certificate was granted to the building in 1993. 
A clearance certificate was issued in 1999. Violations took place after 1999"

They can let something go wrong for more than 10 years!

Naveen's picture

Blame only those responsible

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But where are the arrests for the BBMP and Fire Officials who issued the NOC and the OC ??? They can let something go wrong for more than 10 years!

Are you suggesting that BBMP has to inspect every building in the city each year ? Are the owners of individual units within the building, the tenants /occupants & the building society exempt from all blame ? All of them had violated safety norms in different ways, & are directly responsible for this multiple tragedy, as were people that surrounded the building & obstructed fire forces from reaching in time.

All reports suggest that the building was in compliance when built & therefore, BBMP had issued OC - this is normal.

Further, as far as BBMP is concerned, I think there is a stipulation that buildings above a certain age limit (like 25 years or so) only need to be inspected.

As far as I know, the law requires only annual certification for lifts & fire equipment in multi-storey buildings. Thus, the authorities must additionally target the firms & individuals who last certified fire safety for the building, & not BBMP.

 

A comment in the DH article reads :

They talk about technology, where are the well equipped fire fighting equipments and fire fighters ? why dont they spend on these ? Fire fighting technology is so advanced that these incidents can be putt off within minutes, maybe the govt has no knowlegde about it at all, Wake up guys.....human lifes are precious.

I think this is irresponsible talk - Fire equipment & forces could have reached the building only if they were unhindered & free of obstacles. How could they have reached the spot when hoardings /grills /shops etc. were in the way ?

sanjayv's picture

The solution is simple

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 ... but also complex.  All we need is some accountability and swift retribution for the guilty.  There are obviously some parties we can fix the blame on. Being unaware of all the rules and procedures and all the facts, I will refrain from commenting on who is guilty.  However, if we can have a clear investigation stating what laws were violated and who is guilty, and the blame is fixed on a few individuals (governmental as well as others) and the individuals are punished to the full extent as provided by the law, we will see a rapid improvement.

Once there is accountability and the governmental machinery swiftly publicizes and enforces the rules and punishments, you watch how things improve. one can even ask residents in the buildings to call a hotline number to report violations or an anonymous website to declare /submit proof of violations.  Set up punitive procedures that are constructive.  For example, if an apartment complex has violations and the punishment for reporting is that the building will have to be vacated, do not expect any complaints!

The complex part is that this requires political will and imagination.  If you read the news reports, there is already plenty of examples of confusing reporting and attempts by the powers that be to obfuscate the facts.  Did anybody read about BBMP saying that there are no violations in Carlton towers immediately followed by a contradicting report the next day.  What are the odds that this whole thing will fade away in a few months?

How can PRAJA help? There have been talks of audits and several other discussions.  My input is the following.  (1) We can be a source of information on the fire code, building code and other requirements for an average citizen. Ready reference on the internet. (2) If there are volunteers, PRAJA can be a repository of reported violations in existing buildings (this is a little tricky, but photographic evidence will be of great use).  Be the fire code violations tabloid of Bangalore(3) We can look into the capabilities and strengths and weaknesses of our fire-force (4) Put out case studies of buildings / companies that do a good job

Of course, all this is easier said than done.  Maybe a good magazine like Citizen Matters will dig into this?

 

 

 

srinidhi's picture

Here is the by-law document..

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The concern was more about what went wrong in 1993 at the Carlton Towers that it got a conditional OC and what was corrected in 1999 that it got everything cleared? 

And I am not too sure it takes more than 6 years to complete/fix things which are very critical to human life!

Coming to the yearly certifications from fire dept itself needs to be questioned..

Here is an excellent document which can be used for any audits that we plan to do..its about the bylaws in BBMP

http://www.spaenvis.nic.in/pdfs/Byelaws/Bangalore-Building-Byelaws.pdf

There is a lot of detail on how buildings need to be built taking care of all aspects including fire..

"In case of high rise buildings parking space may be provided in the set back after leaving a minimum setback of 6 Mtrs alround the building to enable movement of Fire Tender." 

Isnt that an offeset of close of 10 mts(25 ft) when there is parking..I am not sure if any building really is built according to this standard!

For the OC, the clause says:

 1. He shall not add or alter materially, the structure or a part of the structure there off without specific permission of BMP. In the event of the applicant violating, the BMP has the right to demolish the deviated/altered/added portion without any prior notice.

2. He shall construct the toilet facilities for the visitors, drivers and servants at Ground floor Level within the plinth area of the building within 3 months from the date of issue of O.C.

3. The basement floor must be used for car parking purpose only as per sanctioned plan. 

Wasn't there visual violations at the building enough to get OC  invalidated? What were the BBMP authorities doing here?

Its not that the building owners are innocent but lets not get the authorities slip away!

 

idontspam's picture

Fire and setbacks

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The chile picture reminds me of European downtown areas. Below is the picture from Amsterdam. The staircases are so narrow and steep that they have hooks in the front of the building (middle of the fancy gables) to move furniture. These buildings are not demolished because they lack setbacks, instead preserved historically. I didnt go inside one of them but people still live in them. Wonder how they manage fire, and what the rules are.

idontspam's picture

Why basement?

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The basement floor must be used for car parking purpose only as per sanctioned plan.

Why? Can somebody not build a MLCP and use the basement for something else? Isnt it sufficient if somebody proves they have parking? Why do they have to mandatorily have it in the basement? Isnt it safer if it is not in the basement and was somewhere else seperated from the main building?

Are these kind of rules the reason for non-compliance?

psaram42's picture

Corruption the main adversary

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 There is a saying in Kannada which means something like this:- “If the fence eats the crop what can be done”. High rise buildings need due diligence in ample measures for the fact that these buildings are the work places of large number of elite people. There is no problem as far as building bye laws are concerned. On the other hand corruption of any kind is a formidable enemy to be kept at bay. 

These accidents being so important in the lives of metropolitan cities do get the media attention and rightly so.  The Bangalore Mirror has some interesting solutions too, from a Praja member. However the point to be made is the corruption the main adversary to be brought under control.   

It looks like Surprise Praja Audits is what is emerging as a consensus here. 

Naveen's picture

Some Clarifications

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The concern was more about what went wrong in 1993 at the Carlton Towers that it got a conditional OC and what was corrected in 1999 that it got everything cleared?

Occupancy certificates for high rises are never immediately handed out - these take time & I think one of the requirements is that there must be a registered society, which takes long to establish. In the apartment complex that I had lived, we had received OC after nearly five years after all blocks had been built & after the society had been registered.

Coming to the yearly certifications from fire dept itself needs to be questioned.

Should this be much more frequent ? If so, then how frequent - once every 6 months or lesser for each building in the city ? This would not be practicable.

Isnt that an offeset of close of 10 mts(25 ft) when there is parking..I am not sure if any building really is built according to this standard!

I think that most, if not all large buildings (7 or more floors) have the large, prescribed setbacks, viz. 30 ft setbacks on 3 sides & 40ft in the front. In the case of Carlton towers, I think some land was acquired on two sides (south & west) when the flyover was being built. Thus, setbacks on the two sides facing roads might have been lesser, but this is acceptable in such cases since the land was given up for public infrastructure.

European downtown areas - Wonder how they manage fire, and what the rules are.

I have stayed in similar heritage hotel buildings at Salzburg, Vienna, Copenhagen (Gentofte), Munich, etc. They usually have fire sensors in each room. Some rooms have battery operated stand alone sensor-alarms if extensive re-wiring is not possible. Many more fire extinguishers are available. A separate small bore fire main with automatic heat sensing sprinkler heads is also fitted where possible (not connected to domestic water main) since stairways might not suffice for mass evacuation.

Naveen's picture

HAL Sanitary Board

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See this  - A majority of these buildings had the original plan sanctioned not by the BBMP, but by a HAL board that wound up in 1995.

srinidhi's picture

Authorities cant go scott free..

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Naveen,

I started my career more than 13 years ago in a company which installed DDC controllers, fire panels and detectors. I have commissioned many buildings in Blr and else where around India. Once in Vadodra, there was a fire officer onsite for checking a Posh 5* hotel and after the mandatory electronics check he went to the pumps. When turned on it could reach 4 floors only and the hotel was 7 floors. The hotel management hushed this up with a payment. 

This is not an isolated incident..its rampant everywhere!

I  can cite many building which have the violations for the fire brigade passage as mandated. They have either converted the space to parking or for setting up offices itself. Havent we have seen many many building violating the 'basement for parking' rule. 

If HAL board approved and building was done 1993..lets not now hide behind a excuse saying everything is ok with what happened and turn a blind eye to it..BBMP has a clause that any violations will be dealt with seriously..so why wasnt it done all these days? Btw we all know the story of the violations the Diamond District building caused..to the extent they were not allowed to open the premises for years and suddenly everything was normal without any modifications by the builder!

Let the authorities face the legal heat..maybe that will stop the sakrama process itself!

If you talk of one building not violating the rules..I can get you 20 which are violating..

Its high time we stand up and stop the menace!

silkboard's picture

Buildings and Bye laws

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This is a tricky one, we know that over 50% of buildings are not compliant, and the traffic problem too to a large extent is due to not following the parking and set back related byelaws.

But we (citizens) can't do a thing in this area because any steps to fix the problem will not have support of the citizens themselves. See what happened to Sakrama scheme, it may not be prefect, but the scheme flopped because citizen's don't want it.

@Naveen - BBMP can't be expected to audit eacn and every building, but random audits, or exemplary punishments are a must to deter people from doing things like blocking exits and running canteens and generators in basements or rooftops.

However, for fire safety norms, the message can be communicated better,  its about saving lives.

silkboard's picture

Positive audit, and a PIL

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Thinking back about the fire safety audit idea, like many have said, picking out a building to audit for violation is going to be ugly, buildings won't allow us, and there will be cries of why me, why not that other building.

I would think the following two things are doable

  • Sanjay's idea of picking out a complaint building and giving it some publicity is a good one. If not anyone else, we can get IT companies to come forward and support this audit. They will get some nice publicity.
  • Can explore a PIL to ensure that the guilty party  (whether its BBMP, the building owner, the tenant or some engineer or architect) in Calrton tower is called out (and punished as defined by the laws)

Given the following facts, we may have grounds for a PIL

  • Various news reports have us (the public) confused. Did BBMP do its job or not? Did the tenants do the mandatory fire safety drills or not? Public needs to know what caused the loss of a dozen lives.
  • Most of the lives were not lost due to the fire itself, Manipal Hospital is on record with supporting statements. What would the cause for suffocation? Blocked Fire exits, or some missing provision in air conditioning systems related to fire safety? Didn't we see people breaking open the glass panes, looked like there may not have been enough windows.

Bottomline, lives were lost in a high rise public-access building. Public needs to know what went wrong, and who was the guilty party. Fire itself may have been an accident, but what happened post that has to be analyzed by the courts in the interest of public awareness.

Update: as of now, the newspapers are on it, and a case is already in the works. If it doesn't fix clear responsibilities for the dozen deaths, should then explore a PIL.

s_yajaman's picture

SB - at your own office?

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 SB,

Thanks.  I was really wondering as to how you would execute your plan of an audit at some other building unless it is some sort of walk-through at say Forum or Garuda.  

However you can initiate a fire safety team in your own office.  Getting some sort of organizational sanction means you can go to your landlord/owner and get action taken against shortcomings. 

A fire safety team can 

a. Audit your own premises for adherence to norms - fire escapes are clear, sprinklers work, fire alarms work, are there fire extinguishers for every 1000 sft of office space, have they been maintained, etc

b. Conduct training and mock drills - are all employees aware of where the exits are.  Do they know what to do and what NOT to do when a fire breaks out?  Will you know within a minute as to how many people were there inside your office when the fire broke out so that you can reconcile a headcount after the fire?

All our offices are potential fire traps - lots of electrical wiring, paper, false ceilings, sealed windows, high security doors which can only be opened with a badge, etc.  Maybe you can make a start in your office.

Srivathsa

 

 

Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

sanjayv's picture

Fire Marshall Inspection

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In the US, most large buildings are subject to an annual fire marshall inspection (the fire force does not have much to do until an emergency occurs - so their full time job should be to inspect and ensure compliance) .  The fire marshall arrives unannounced, normally in the mornings and inspects the building, checks fire drill registers etc. for compliance.  Violators are given a period of time to fix noted deficiencies.

Do we have a rule like this in India / Bangalore. If not, now is the time to bring in such a law and fund positions to do the inspections. We can also mandate that the fire marshall's report is to be a publically available document for each building.  Unfortunately, it always takes a few disasters for the public to wake up and do something in most cases.

Ravi_D's picture

Inspections

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Accepted that the authorities have limited resources for inspections and such of every building in the city.

Arguable it may be, but don't we see  one stretched Lokayukta create panic in establishments when they go on 'surprise' audits? Does traffic police need to stop every single violator to make everyone wear helmets (even if it is only for a few days at a stretch)? Proves that enforcement is more a question of will, planning and effort. If authorities really wanted, as SY pointed out earlier, they could undertake comprehensive random inspections. 

In a given ward (or zone), on any given day, say a hundred buildings are under construction. Each site is active for 3 to 6 month period. Let us say our inspector man spends one day a week at a site. He can inspect 52 buildings in his area every year. That's a good percentage, isn't it? If those inspections were *really* rigorous, I can guarantee that compliance will improve dramatically. People don't want it. Officials want to find ways not to do it. Motives are different from both angles. Just unfortunate.

silkboard's picture

any office - just don't put them in a spot

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I was tempted to put up my office there, but can't do that without checking with them. Won't get anything done by putting them in a spot. Most likely, there is no need for educating them because we have things in place - regular fire drills, that alarm rings once or twice a month when that happens, extenguishers etc are visibly in place and tested, don't see any exits locked, stairs are all open and clear etc etc etc. With an established Security and Risk office with clear responsibilities, we are good. But I still need to check with them, before I even propose anything here.

If anyone has a building they want to highlight as a positive example, (malls, office complexes, new residential buildings), mention here. Don't mention unless you are reasonably sure, and, are a stakeholder in that building. Generally naming 3rd party properties is not a good thing.

Ravi_D's picture

Raaj-less Certification

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@IDS:

Isn't it already a requirement to get a registered architect / civil engineer to issue an inspection certificate, when you build new or modify existing structures? They are expected to put their name, registration number etc... and identify themselves. There is even a requirement that they issue a foundation certificate, if I remember right. How much good it does is well known.

s_yajaman's picture

Did not mean that we audit your office

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 Only that charity begins at home.  We spend more than 50% of our waking hours in that blessed place called office.  So if you can ask your Security and Risk a list of uncomfortable questions and they pass that should mean that you are in good hands.  

Srivathsa

 

Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

Ravi_D's picture

Here is a different way to look at it...

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In my industry (upstream Oil & Gas), safety is a paramount concern. When people go out in the ocean to work, safety risks just out run all others. For example, on most well meaning facilities, everyone on the rig has the authority to push the red emergency shutdown button if they sense danger. And they are trained to do so as soon as they land on the rig.

Point here is different. The manager in charge of the rig is held responsible for safety of the facility. Many rig operators literally hold him under the guillotine.You should visit one to see the difference. They never ever neglect safety issues.

So, let us enact that the owner is ultimately responsible for everything for that goes wrong with any building. Let them not escape from murder charges when lives are lost due to their negligence, unless he has complied with every requirement enforced. You will see things change.

Of course, it will be expensive to the original and subsequent owners, but, you have to pay for it some way. I prefer that the currency be something other than my life.

Naveen's picture

Primary responsibility lies with owners

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the owner is ultimately responsible for everything for that goes wrong with any building. Let them not escape from murder charges when lives are lost due to their negligence, unless he has complied with every requirement enforced

Ravi, atleast you are stating something that sounds far more logical & sensible. This is exactly what I had been trying to say too.

 

Srinidhi /SB,

It goes without saying that building violations are rampant - there is no denying this. For each building that might be in full conformity, there are perhaps a hundred in gross violation or even a thousand, rather than the 20 mentioned. In fact, conformance itself is seen as unusual & a "misnomer" !

What I disagree with is that the general public blame "authorities" for any & all of these violations, placing the onus of strict adherence wholly & entirely on them (authorities), & holding authorities fully responsible with contempt, whilst not placing the larger blame on owners. This is despite the fact that there is evidence that clearly suggests that the multiple set of owners had violated most safety norms for personal gain, possibly after the building was in conformance initially (1999).

If for example, the BBMP had issued a conditional OC in 1993 that had been cleared only after six years, doesn't this suggest that BBMP had probably done the right thing & had reacted correctly to set right any violations ? Sadly, the public tends to smell a rat even here, suspecting that something was amiss with the process !

As SB has correctly stated, BBMP can only conduct random checks, but they may have overlooked Carlton towers. It is possible that the building may have been audited randomly & found in violation, & bribes may have been paid, but this question is secondary, though it needs to be checked & verified. If indeed this has occurred, than the BBMP staff responsible will no doubt be abettors who must be taken to task.

Why do we not shoot at the many powerful owners who combined units, took over access spaces & blocked off stairways ? What about the society - why were stairway doors kept locked, denying escapeways to people ? Why did the building have hoardings within that blocked passage for fire engines ? Why did the ground floor restaurant erect grills, preventing access to rescue personnel ? Who did all this ? Not BBMP - the society & owners did all this, & they are primarily responsible.

That BBMP (& fire safety dept) did not clamp down on these violations is the next question that needs probing, but why do we tend to highlight only this every time ?

I'm not at all convinced that this sort of reaction by the public is correct.

Re. Sakrama, though this scheme is itself dubious & is in violation of the principles of law, the various citizens groups & RWAs had rejected it because the citizens, already in violation of building norms, did not want to pay for 'regularization', & not because the scheme was ethically & morally questionable. In my opinion, the correct solution is to hike up property taxes for all buildings that are in violation, never regularize them with fines.

All buildings in violation must continue to pay substantially higher property taxes each year until the violations have been set right - this would have been the correct solution. Further, the various BDA /BBMP /revenue officers responsible for issuing OCs must be charged as abettors since records exist as to who sanctioned them.

silkboard's picture

Point taken SY

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But the point is if I announce here first, and they don't get back with the answers for whatever reason, I am earning them bad name. Thats all. Anyway.

We already have a fire safety team in our office. And since you have already put me in a spot here :) yes, I am checking if our fire safety team can volunteer to showcase their good work.

silkboard's picture

Not many hands of help so far

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Its worth a mention that besides Ravi and myself, don't see any offers of help with either of these

  1. collect safety codes, try present the collection here, online.
  2. a positive audit-cum-publicity of a good example.
  3. possibly, if there are enough people willing, use Carlton Tower case to fix a lot of things, via a PIL.

Not complaining really. But knowing the profile of members here, I know people don't raise hands generally, some convincing and planning would be required. We could just do a meeting to plan if above 3 is it, or we can do some project which is more distributed and can involve more poeple/members here.

If the meeting itself can be combined with #2 above (a positive public audit-cum-publicity for some building), that would work very well.

PS: In the end, doing any such thing would need 5-6 people to drive it and share workload. No harm if we don't have that many willing today, someday we will!

srinidhi's picture

count me in!

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As said the bylaw doc here could be our starting ref point..

http://www.spaenvis.nic.in/pdfs/Byelaws/Bangalore-Building-Byelaws.pdf

we can use some major parts of the regulations for the audit..

Naveen's picture

Let's be realistic

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SB /Others,

No harm trying, but will any private commercial building society permit safety audits of their high-rise tower by praja to be later posted on web page/s ? I doubt very much since they might have reservations, especially after the Carlton tower incident.

The response would of course be different from residential towers, but then there isn't much point surveying them. The real dangers are in commercial towers where hundreds, if not thousands are concentrated & work in small cubicles or in open halls.

You can count me in, if we want to go ahead, though.

sanjayv's picture

flyover impacting setback?

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 I was curious following Naveen's comment.  From the Google Earth historical imagery, I doubt that much land was acquired, if any.  Take a look. One can also see how busy the roof has become with the diesel gensets and mobile phone towers!

Carleton towers google earth screen grab

Naveen's picture

New free left rd impacted setback

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Sanjay,

On the present day image, do you notice a road on the right adjacent the ramp, particularly on the southeast corner of carlton towers ?

This road had earlier been well away from Carlton towers & the building's compound wall had included the many trees within, as seen on the 2000 map. When the flyover had been built, this road for free left to airport road for vehicles from Indiranagar (over the storm drain) had been widened as also a part of airport rd itself in front of Carlton towers to accommodate an extra lane to facilitate merging of vehicles.

Since I had been using the road regularly, I had noticed these during construction of the flyover.

Naveen's picture

Disturbing to see 'Big Fish' get away

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" The building is owned by some people and my husband works for them. He is working for his salary and has to obey his owner. We don’t know why he was arrested while the owners are let free ”

Relatives of the fire tragedy accused charge the authorities with letting the big fish go scot free

Click here for full report.

Citizen groups & relatives of victims must come together to bring the guilty to face charges (like in the Ruchika case).

idontspam's picture

Responsibilities

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So, let us enact that the owner is ultimately responsible for everything for that goes wrong with any building.

Well said Ravi, this is the bottom line. Some premises may go further than what may be mandated so ultimately it should be the owner/managements responsibility to ensure safety of their occupants and be held responsible for the same. minimum standards must be audited though. Looks like carlton had sprinklers & equipment which didnt have water, so no use really. Sprinklers are like airbags, cant test till they actually go off during event.

sanjayv's picture

Thanks Naveen

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Got it.  Thanks Naveen.  I think this is also an important point that appears to be missed or not addressed by the media. Who checks for setbacks when they take over land like this? 

psaram42's picture

Building bye laws, Maintenance and use

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The above three issues are distinct and should not be mixed up. 

  1. The high rise building bye laws need to be written by competent experts bearing in mind the risk to human life. The laws have to evolve naturally and fine tuned over a period of time.
  2. Proper maintenance requirements also need to be laid down.
  3. Fire safety norms need to be properly spelt out. 

The responsibility of loss of life thus could be on both the owner and the tenant.  It looks ridiculous (unlawful high handedness) to arrest the tenant’s employee. Hope some of these issues are brought up in the assembly by our elected representatives. 

silkboard's picture

Are not different things

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Building norms include all of the three (and more things like amenities, water connection, minimum space per employee).

All these are linked to the same broken enforcement process and the poor levels of compliance on part of BBMP (its not just their fault, as the lawlessness is aided by builders owners etc).

Really bad to say this, but thanks to the fact that some lives have been lost at Carlton, someone can build up a case to fix liabilities and responsibilities, and the case can work to improve the enforcement and compliance levels on building norms in general. So long as it will be about mundane things like parking, setback, public space, amenities etc, nobody will take the building norms seriously.

Naveen's picture

Will justice be done finally ?

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The Electrical Inspectorate has indicted the Carlton Towers Owners' Association and its management for the tragedy that struck the building last Tuesday, killing nine persons and injuring over 60.

Click here for full report.

psaram42's picture

Lessons to be learnt the hard way

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 The kith and kin of the diseased are fighting a long drawn legal battle for justice. This is the only avenue left for the hapless victims of the tragedy. Justice delayed is justice denied. There is a need to vitalize the entire spectrum of people and the agencies involved, for improving the confidence levels of the Bangalore citizens.

 

sanjayv's picture

Kith and Kin going to court

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 This is incredibly brave of these folks.  It is the people who pay the ultimate sacrifice who will remember this incident for the rest of their lives.  We should support their fight to clearly determine guilt, punish the guilty and more importantly make the necessary process changes that will prevent such event s in the future.  

 

Right now, Commissioner Shankar Bidari has put out a detailed notice (link to full text here) to owners and residents under powers conferred upon him under the Karnataka police act. However, this is a one time action which may at best fix some of existing deficiencies and does not ensure future violations will be identified and prevented

Promod Kapur's picture

Fire Audit et al

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This debate has gone through lots of twists and turns - starting from doing a fire audit of buildings to violation of building bye laws to fixing responsibilities to governance to enforcement to corruption, to legal implications and so on and on. Can we start at the first step - to find out what the Fire Department people expect from High rise buildings, dwellings ets? The issue is not about violations or corruption or complicity of individuals, Corporation officials or Associations of the buildings. That is a crusade at a totally different level. The issue is that given the violations in building bye laws, which we can safely assume to be all pervading, how can we help educate occupants, temporary or permanent, to minimise the risks of fire and in the event of fire what minimum safeguards they should ensure to minimise the risk to their lives. I dont think we have the wherewithal or the stamina to change a system that has become so rotten. I have long learnt to have least dependence on Government systems, while at the same time we can not become totally independent of the state's interventions. We should restrict our efforts to do a fire audit and for that we need a check list. As pointed out by Ravi D, no owner would happily allow us to do an audit of his building, particularly when he knows he is culpable of breaching laws. But what we can safely do is to prepare a check list, distribute the same to all the occupants, transitory included, and let them ask questions to the principals involved, whether building owner, or employer or association or landlord. After all we are educating citizens and occupiers of buildings for their own safety. That will become the trigger to pressurise the system from within. If people still do not want to participate then there is very little you and I can do, and frankly we can not look beyond that. We can not play the role of interventionists as such.

Count me in to assist in preparing the check list. Naveen has given us a great start up list, all we need to do is to liaise with the Fire Department (Jija Harisingh) and fine tune it in the context of Bangalore's status. We can then take it forward, roughly in terms of the structured plan that I had suggested.

Regards,

Major Kapur

abidpqa's picture

When there is a fire drill,

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When there is a fire drill, it is easy to think, I know how many flights are there, and how much time it is needed for me to take those steps. If I take part only then I know, the fire exits are closed!!

It is also a case of safety versus security. There is also need to prevent something like theft using the fire escape, so it is okay to keep it locked so long as everyone knows how to open it.

I hope this incident is considered an election issue, and the next council does better work for safety of the citizens.

nitindubey23's picture

Survivor from Carlton Towers

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Hi

I am one of the survivors from the Carlton Towers fire; I was on the 7th floor and after quite some time in the ICU and then some more under observation, I am on the path to recovery.

I request you to please join our Facebook group called Beyond Carlton, where we need people like you to discuss and contribute. Beyond Carlton is on the move, dedicated to assisting the authorities with the investigation, pushing them for stricter implementation of fire norms and spreading awareness amongst the common man to get up and ask questions from their building management. The Facebook group provides regular updates as well.

Regards

Nitin

silkboard's picture

Glad you survived

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Nitin, glad to note that you survived. Must have been a horrible experience, and most likely, for no fault of yours at all.

Some folks here as well are trying to get a group going to do something towards building safety awareness but are currently short of people (http://praja.in/en/projec...). Will be great if you could move/copy/duplicate your facebook group here. Can make a dedicated website for the cause to give it more attention.

Regardless, will try to link your facebook group to the fire safety project some people are trying. We are trying to build this non-profit and open website up as a bangalore civic issue focused place.

Naveen's picture

Welcome Nitin

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Hi Nitin,

It must have been a very difficult ordeal, going thro' the fire, then hospital ICU & staying under observation - perhaps an undesirable lifetime experience none would want - I'm glad that you are on the path to recovery.

It is clear that we sorely lack awareness. Also clear is that most building managements neglect maintenance of fire safety gear & rapid evacuation arrangements, such as fire doors & stairways. The tendency to ignore safety gear & make more money by using up allocated evacuation spaces must be fought by one & all.

The only way this can be done is by creating awareness & employees must be encouraged in every building to check if their safety is intact during emergencies. Please do join the group as you will be in a position to give valuable insights.

Ravi - what next ? I think it's time we push this project ahead now.

Ravi_D's picture

Re: Welcome Nitin

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Glad to hear you are on your way to recovery. 

As Naveen & SB pointed out, we, at Praja, are trying to do our bit. Someone like you will certainly add a new dimension and urgency to the efforts.

@Naveen: Was a bit busy this week. Guess as you were typing your comment, I was posting some updates to get this going!

Vasanth's picture

Another Fire on ORR near Marathalli in Woodlands hotel today

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 Today, on my way to office at around 11:00 AM I saw another fire hazard on Hotel woodlands between Marathalli and Doddenakundi. One of the room on the first floor of this hotel had caught fire. Only one fire brigade was being used and water was not reaching the fire.

This has become common in Bangalore now.

 

murali772's picture

ill-prepared govt buildings

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The Bangalore District Court on KG Road does not have fire extinguishers. The only fire extinguisher in the building is placed in the record room.

The civil court complex has a number of fire extinguishers but a portion of the building’s cellar is used as offices. When asked about using a portion of the cellar being used for offices, Mr Vijayakumar, a PWD AE posted at the court complex to take care of maintenance, said efforts would be made to shift them to other floors.


For the full report in the New Indian Express, click here.

The New Indian Express has over the week been publishing a series of reports on fire safety issues in government buildings. The non-preparedness is evident everywhere, almost uniformly. The answer very simply lies in engaging competent contractors (of whom there are plenty available today - check this) for maintenance, and instituting a proper and non-exploitative inspection regime (check this).
 

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

how can you enforce laws this way?

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The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is authorised to issue a no objection certificate (NOC) for a high-rise building before it is occupied. Verification of whether a building has the required fire safety equipment is the BBMP’s responsibility. What can be said if the BBMP itself starts constructing  a six-storey building on its premises and occupies three floors without even installing a single fire safety equipment? - - - The BBMP is constructing a six-storey building behind its annexe. The construction is yet to be completed even after two years. However, various departments of the BBMP are functioning from this building for the last 18 months. - - - - As if it is not enough, there is not even a single fire extinguisher in this building to douse the fire if a fire breaks out accidentally.

For the full report in the New Indian Express, click here

How can BBMP hope to enforce laws this way? What kind of a (dis)organisation has it got reduced to? How can the so-called IT capital of the country afford such a state of affairs?

 

Muralidhar Rao

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