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Fire at Delhi hospital, Rajkot game zone: What are safety rules in India, compliance challenges? | Explained

More than 40 people, including several children, have recently died in multiple fire incidents across the country. According to NCRB data, an average of 35 people per day lost their lives due to fires between 2016 and 2020.

Edited By: Arushi Jaiswal @JaiswalArushi New Delhi Updated on: May 27, 2024 13:35 IST
Fire, Delhi, Rajkot
Image Source : INDIA TV Fire safety rules in India

Fire at Delhi hospital, Rajkot game zone: The recent devastating fire incidents at a gaming zone in Gujarat's Rajkot and a children's hospital in Delhi, claiming at least 30 lives cumulatively, have served as stark reminders of the critical importance of fire safety regulations. These tragic events have highlighted the pressing necessity for rigorous enforcement of safety measures, particularly in structures vulnerable to man-made disasters. As communities mourn the loss of precious lives, there arises a collective call for comprehensive measures to prevent such calamities in the future, emphasising the paramount importance of prioritising fire safety in building design, maintenance, and oversight.

What are fire safety rules in India?

It's worth to note that fire services in India operate under the jurisdiction of the State and are classified as a Municipal function in the XII Schedule of the Constitution of India, as outlined in Article 243 (W). This means that state governments bear the responsibility for fire prevention and ensuring the safety of lives and properties. They achieve this mandate by implementing measures through mechanisms such as the State Fire Services Act or building bylaws.

However, India has the National Building Code of India 2016 (Fire and Life Safety), which serves as a comprehensive guideline for the construction, maintenance, and fire safety of structures. Published by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) in 1970 and last updated in 2016, the NBC is considered the central standard for fire safety in the country. The NBC provides detailed guidelines for general construction requirements, maintenance, and fire safety of buildings, serving as a model for adoption by all agencies involved in building construction.

Additionally, the 'Model Building Bye Laws 2016', issued by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, assist states and union territories in framing their respective building bylaws. These bylaws prescribe norms for fire protection and safety requirements.

Fire safety codes

  • According to the National Building Code, achieving absolute fire safety may not be feasible in practice, but certain measures can be implemented to enhance safety from fire hazards.
  • The Code specific zones for construction and imposes restrictions based on fire zones. For instance, residential areas, educational institutions, and other institutional buildings are categorised under Fire Zone 1. This zoning is designed to prevent the coexistence of industrial and hazardous structures with residential, institutional, and commercial buildings.
  • These measures are applicable to various types of buildings, including high-rise structures, special buildings such as hotels, educational institutions, commercial establishments, storage facilities, and industrial units. Specifically, the regulations apply to buildings with a floor area exceeding 500 square meters on any floor, assembly buildings, structures with incidental assembly occupancy exceeding 300 square meters on any floor, and buildings with two or more basements, or one basement exceeding 500 square meters in area.
  • As per the code, non-combustible materials should be used for the construction of buildings, and the internal walls of staircase enclosures should be of brickwork or reinforced concrete or any other material of construction with a minimum of 120 min rating.
  • For electrical installation, it is desirable that the wiring and cabling are with flame retardant property. Medium and low voltage wiring running in shafts, and within false ceilings shall run in metal conduit. 
  • The electric distribution cables/wiring shall be laid in a separate shaft. The shaft shall be sealed on every floor with fire-stop materials having the same fire resistance as that of the floor. High, medium and low voltage wiring running in shaft and in false ceiling shall run in separate shaft/conduits.
  • All metallic items such as steel structural members should be bonded properly to the earthing system.

What are the challenges?

  • The absence of a unified fire service in various Indian states, combined with a disregard for safety regulations, is identified as a significant factor contributing to frequent fire incidents.
  • The lack of standardisation and enforcement of safety norms leads to disasters, exacerbated by deficiencies in organisational structure, training, and resources for firefighters.
  • Limited modern equipment and inadequate funding further hinder firefighting efforts, while ambiguous fire safety audit provisions and lax rules exacerbate the risks.
  • Non-compliance with fire safety measures, exemplified by cases like the gaming zone in Rajkot, where flouting norms and using combustible materials resulted in a devastating fire, underscores the seriousness of the issue.
  • Many buildings nationwide neglect fire safety regulations, compromising exit routes and increasing the potential for casualties during emergencies.

Common causes of fire

  •  Short-circuit: One of the common reason of fire at any place is short-circuit. Various appliances, including ACs, fans, and coolers, run on electricity and tend to overheat due to high temperatures in the summer. This overheating increases the risk of a short circuit.
  • Overloading: During summers, the use of electrical appliances often leads to overloading, which can cause fires. Overloading results in the wiring getting burnt, and it can also cause transformers to burn out.

Preventive measures

  • Proper maintenance of electrical equipment is essential to prevent overheating and potential hazards. Regular servicing of electronic appliances helps prevent sparks and fires.
  • For those working in public business places, it is crucial to implement fire safety measures. This includes installing necessary firefighting equipment and providing personnel with adequate training.

8 in 10 home and workplace is not compliant to fire safety norms: Report

According to a survey, only 18 per cent of people reported living in houses or apartments compliant with fire safety norms, where checks are conducted annually. The survey collected responses from more than 22,000 citizens across 301 districts of India. 

  • 19 per cent were unsure if their fire extinguishing systems worked
  • 27 per cent admitted to never ensuring compliance
  • 3 per cent had a fire extinguisher but lacked other safety measures
  • 21 per cent had not considered fire safety
  • 12 per cent didn't provide a clear response.

Regarding workplaces, out of over 11,000 respondents, only 27 per cent confirmed that their office, factory, or shop complied with fire safety standards and underwent regular annual checks. Additionally, 11 per cent mentioned having easy access to a fire extinguisher despite not being fully compliant with fire safety standards.

However, the majority of respondents expressed uncertainty or neglect regarding fire safety measures.

  • 14 per cent were unsure if their fire extinguishing systems worked
  • 14 per cent admitted to never ensuring compliance
  •  20 per cent had not considered fire safety, and 14 per cent didn't provide a clear response.

Among the respondents, 62 per cent were men and 38 per cent were women. Geographically, 46 per cebt were from tier 1 cities, 32 per cent from tier 2 cities, and 22 per cent from tier 3, 4, and rural districts.

Also Read: Rajkot game zone fire: 2 police inspectors, civic staff among 5 officials suspended for negligence

Also Read: Rajkot fire incident: First visuals from inside game zone show how blaze spreads



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