The fire was restrained without any human loss few days back in PID building Islamabad. But it has left many questions behind the scene about the safety procedures and approval process of our government authorities. Do we check our buildings’ safety system’ properly according to international safety and security rules before the approval of the building? Do we have such institutions which can take initiatives to control these incidents? Do we have effective force to extinguish the fire before it spread rapidly in entire building? Do we have any independent authority to probe the cause of such incidents? We always experience difference of opinion between these authorities after any incident. Over the last five years, there have been more than hundred fire incidents reported in multi storey buildings across the country. Dozens of buildings have been collapsed, many families witnessed their loved ones in fire, businessmen wasted their huge investments and many important file records have been destroyed during these incidents. Pakistan is listed among those countries, having weak fire safety standards and sick fire response authorities.
Developed countries like United Arab Emirates have very strict safety regulations. Every state has its own safety authority under central department of civil defense. The buildings are fully equipped with automatic Security & Safety system which reacts shortly when the fire starts. The approval from civil defense needed prior to construction of a building and civil defense monitors the work until the completion. They have the powers to stop the work or to demolish the building if they found any mistake in safety measures. They are among those countries having fastest average fire response time of less than 5 minutes. In a population of 3.137 Million a state like Dubai have more than 16 fire stations which are directly connected with the building automatic fire control panel. The fire stations are fully equipped with advance fire fighting system, every size of fire tenders and professional fire fighters which are licensed by Dubai civil defense. But unfortunately, we do not have such department due to lack of professionals on higher level. The shortage of budget is another story behind it but it is on second, as we can bring a revolution even within current budget.
The government should order the building owners to implement the safety standards in their buildings by equip the buildings with safety tools like Fire extinguishers, fire exit signs, exit stairs, manual call points, smoke & heat detectors and even sprinkler system. More than 90 percent of the total buildings in the capital city Islamabad do not have a secure fire exit; there is no emergency exits signage due to which many people lost their lives when they jump from high storey buildings. During the last fire incident in PID building Islamabad rescue teams were caught using wooden stairs to get people out of the building which could be dangerous during fire. The offices and companies must have to keep fire extinguishing tools, intense heat safety helmets and smoke resistant masks to save the life of their employees. The Government should establish an independent fire safety council or safety department to review and to amend the safety rules, to investigate the reason after an incident and to spread safety awareness in public. Our relevant departments should conduct a building safety check survey in all the provinces across the country under their supervision at least once in every 12 months. In fact, they have to be active like soldiers on border. They must have to regularize the private security companies, as almost every building has private security guards. They should educate the private security guards about basic firefighting skills and evacuation process as they can be the first responder in these incidents. The Government must have to enforce the safety standards prior to another happening and it should by the priority of newly formed government as it will be a revolutionary step towards a safe Pakistan.