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New Notification on Fire Safety

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Urban Development

Mr Uday Vijayan of "Beyond Carlton", who is working with 'Namma Bengaluru Foundation' to further the Fire Safety message sent me these copies of the latest (7th July, '11) notification issued by the Karnataka Fire and Emergency Services wing of the Home Department. Apparently, the rules have become a lot more stringent, necessarily so too, and it would help property managers/ RWA MC members, etc to familiarise themselves with them.

I checked the GoK site ( http://www.karnataka.gov.in/ksfes/index.html ) to see if I could access a clearer text. But, apparently it is yet to be uploaded.

Muralidhar Rao

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how to ensure status-quo-ism

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As a member of the Governing Council of an apartment federation, I had engaged with the KSFES (Karnataka State Fire & Emergency Services), alongwith two other GC members, to try and formulate an acceptable procedure for member apartments for following the new fire-safety guidelines (detailed above).
 
Firstly, I detailed the process, as it existing then, as below:
 
There are two sets of high-rise apartment complexes -
a) largely compliant with Fire Safety norms
b) largely non-compliant with Fire Safety norms
 
The Supreme Court order following the Carlton incident stipulates that fire safety inspections be conducted at least every two years. The KSFES has accordingly drawn up a programme, and their inspectors have been visiting complexes, carrying out inspections, and issuing notices for rectifications of defects, alongwith placing demands for payment of inspection fees. Now, the fee structure is seen to be totally disproportionate to the work involved, and as a result, it invariably ends up with the inspector and the "manager" (duly empowered by the MC) negotiating a deal at a much lower value, but totally in cash, leaving the rectification & certification largely undone. I am talking from personal experience.
 
Given all of this, I had suggested to the Director General (I'll leave out his name) to opt for out-sourcing the inspection to the likes of "Chartered engineers", whereby the fees can be lower, while also ensuring a diligent job of the inspection process. The DG had appreciated the logic behind the suggestion, and readily recommended the same to the UDD, GoK (the mother department) with a suggestion to us to follow up. 
 
But, with a co-MC member saying that fire safety is a public service, and therefore, there should not be any charge for the inspection, and another co-MC member wanting to find out what the charges are in other parts of the country, the matter remained stuck.  
 
At a subsequent GC meeting, when "fire safety" issue came up, following queries from members, one of the co-GC members, commented saying: "Issues that individual apartments may have may be conveyed to us for appropriate action".
 
To the same, I responded as below:
 
Isn't it obvious what the issues are? It is just that fire inspectors come periodically, make a show of conducting an inspection, list a whole lot of defects, cite the astronomical figures in the fee structure, offer a way out through payment of about half the amount (negotiable, and in cash, of course) collect it, and go. But, next year, or even earlier (since no records are maintained), they come again and demand a higher amount (inflation & Corona factor), and if you don't pay, they issue threats of power and water disconnection, and the tamasha goes on. 
 
So, when a proper procedure has not been evolved, what solution can you have for this? Firstly, you have to decide 
 
a) whether there should be an inspection at all, or should self-certification be good enough?
b) if an inspection has to happen, should it be free (an essential service), or are you prepared to pay for it?
c) if the inspection has to happen, should it be out-sourced to an agency like "chartered engineers", for the job to be carried out more diligently, and at a lower overall cost?
 
Without agreeing on all of these, I am afraid, we are just floundering along with no solutions to any of the problems.
 
That was sometime in 2019-20. With GC remaining indecisive, and with me having differences of views on other matters too, in Dec, '20, I quit the GC membership.
 
Nothing seems to have changed since then. And, without proper certification procedures, as directed by the SC, being followed, it may not be inappropriate to say that multi-storied apartment complexes stand exposed to fire hazards.
 
Muralidhar Rao

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