THIS is with reference to the report ‘Lives could have been saved if fire tenders have arrived on time’ (Aug 29). The statement, made in the context of the recent factory fire tragedy in Karachi, is incorrect and diverts attention from the actual causes — both immediate and underlying ones — leading to such a tragic accident.

In fire response, the most important parameter is fire growth rate. Most fires, especially those involving inflammable chemicals, take no more than two to five minutes to develop from initial ignition to a full-scale blaze.

Unless the fire growth rate is checked at the initial stage — within the first few tens of seconds — by the application of manual suppression or automatic suppression system in the shape of sprinklers, it will grow into a fully developed fire which is very difficult to control.

Successful escape and egress demand early detection and warning, detection of smouldering/smoke within seconds, raising of alarm, initiation of escape and evacuation, and, of course, adequate number and size of escape routes, depending on the number of personnel, should be available.

A fire brigade can only be considered protective if the provisions of initial fire suppression and escape are available. Apparently, at the Mehran Town factory, there was neither any manual fire intervention provision nor was there a sprinkler in place. And, apparently, escape and egress provision was inadequate, if at all.

So, lives could not have been saved if the fire tenders had arrived earlier than they actually did. Lives could have been saved had the factory-owner learned lessons from the Baldia factory fire, Bangladesh factory fires and hundreds of other cases. The factory-owner should have conducted a comprehensive fire hazard management study and implemented the required fire prevention, mitigation and control measures as per the legal obligations under the Sindh Building Control Act and international best practices.

The government inspectors and regulators should have done their job honestly and ensured that the required fire safety measures were in place. The stakeholders, including the owners, should have valued human life.

Sadly, the learning disability of the industry and the regulators is depressing.

Muhammad Saim
Karachi

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2021

Opinion

Last call
Updated 23 Sep 2021

Last call

The exchange rate alone can no longer absorb the full impact of the deterioration in the current account.
Appeasing terrorists
Updated 22 Sep 2021

Appeasing terrorists

The policy of appeasement has not worked in the past and it certainly will not work now.

Editorial

23 Sep 2021

Dialogue, at last

SANITY appears to have at last prevailed in the matter of electoral reforms. On Tuesday, at a meeting of National...
AUKUS controversy
Updated 23 Sep 2021

AUKUS controversy

Instead of flexing its military muscle, the Western bloc needs to engage China at the negotiating table.
23 Sep 2021

Provocative act

MAULANA Abdul Aziz appears to relish provoking the state — and getting away with it. For the third time since Aug...
22 Sep 2021

Interest rate hike

THE State Bank’s decision to raise its key interest rate by 25bps to 7.25pc underpins its acceptance of emerging...
PCB chief’s challenge
Updated 22 Sep 2021

PCB chief’s challenge

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has propelled fears of regional insecurity.
22 Sep 2021

No need for secrecy

THE government should not make a mountain out of the Toshakhana molehill. That would only encourage speculation of...