WITH rapid and unplanned growth in Karachi, fire hazards present a major challenge where protection of life and property are concerned. This is especially true considering the mushroom growth of high-rises and multistorey commercial and residential buildings in the metropolis over the last few years. When incidents of fire occur, civic agencies are found to be woefully unprepared and under-resourced. Unfortunately, in their effort to cut corners, builders do not include essential safety features in their structures. In this regard, the Sindh High Court has been hearing a petition regarding the enforcement of fire and safety regulations. The court was told during a recent hearing that task forces have been formed at the district, divisional and sub-divisional level to inspect buildings and factories to ensure they are adhering to safety codes. During an earlier hearing the court was informed of the sad state of the Karachi fire brigade. For example, only 14 fire tenders are said to be in working order, with 30 faulty vehicles sent for repairs. The court was also told that the federal government will provide 48 fire trucks for the Sindh capital.
To ensure that Karachi is ready to deal with fire emergencies, two things are essential. Firstly, the relevant building code and fire-safety provisions must be enforced so that new structures coming up in the city do not turn into fire traps. These must have clear fire exits, escapes and sprinkler systems in place — especially where high-rises are concerned. Regular inspections by the civic authorities are also important. Secondly, the city must have a well-equipped, well-trained fire department where personnel can handle blazes of various intensities. At present, the fire department often has to depend on support from other institutions, such as the navy or KPT, to control blazes of high intensities. Ignoring fire-safety codes in buildings and leaving an unequipped fire department to its own devices puts the lives of citizens at risk.
Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2020