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Helipads not the answer: Fighting fire

August 01, 2013

MINUS the hare-brained helipad part of it, the plan to give a modern fire-fighting system to Lahore’s multistorey buildings has many positive points. Knocked into consciousness after the Lahore Development Authority Plaza tragedy on May 9, the civic agencies of the provincial capital have got together to give input to a fire safety commission set up on the orders of the Lahore High Court. The commission has representatives drawn from the city government, the LDA and the Pakistan Engineering Council. Their recommendations make eminent sense: there should be sprinklers on all floors (except the basement), emergency lights, smoke detectors, external stairs for emergency exits and regular fire drills. These are quotidian measures that should have been in place long ago instead of being discovered and suggested now. Were these rules not already there in the LDA’s worm-eaten building manuals? If they were, why were they ignored? Well, since wisdom tells us it is never too late, let’s hope the recommendations will be implemented not only for high-rises that are to come up but in the case of existing ones as well — assuming of course that their construction, location and unauthorised alterations leave room for such essentials.

The interesting part of the input concerns helipads which high-rises are supposed to have. We assume that the new constructions will be strong enough to withstand a helicopter’s landing and take-off, because we would not want the roofs to cave in. But the question is why we go for such mod solutions when the meticulous observance of time-tested techniques could do just as well. Fires grow. Timely action can stop a minor blaze from turning into a conflagration. Old is gold. Let’s not forget those red-coloured fire-extinguishers bequeathed to us by the British. We need them rather than helipads.