20 Indian cities saw 80% of building fire deaths

The latest Indian Risk Survey report ranks fire outbreak as the third biggest risk to businesses

By Rajit Sengupta, Kiran Pandey
Last Updated: Friday 15 February 2019
Fire outbreak
Image: Getty Images Image: Getty Images

Fire outbreak is the third biggest risk to business continuity and operations, according to India Risk Survey (IRS) 2018. In IRS 2016, fire outbreak was ranked eighth biggest risk to businesses.

Two examples of this were witnessed in the Capital the past week. First when a fire broke out at Arpit Palace hotel in Karol Bagh on February 12 and second when a four-storey building belonging to gift store Archies almost gutted on February 14.

The survey blames non-compliance of safety norms and under-equipped fire services for the sudden increase in risk posed by fire outbreaks, which comes immediately after information and cyber insecurity and natural hazards.

“There have been numerous fire accidents this year causing significant loss of life and property. While the government and other regulatory bodies have prescribed norms and fire safety measures, implementation and vigilance continue to be a concern,” says the report.

The Ministry of Home Affairs in 2017 told Parliament that the country in 2012 had just 2,987 fire stations against the requirement of 8,559, a shortfall of 65 per cent. India needs additional 559,681 trained fire personnel, 221,411 firefighting equipment, and 9,337 fire-fighting vehicles and specialised equipment, it added.

A fallout of the lack of preparedness is that 17,700 Indians died of accidental fire — an average of 48 deaths a day — which is largely avoidable, shows the last Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India (ADSI) of 2015.

There was a 300 per cent increase in cases of fire incidents in commercial buildings between 2014 (179 cases) and 2015 (716 cases). Fire outbreaks in government buildings also rose by 218 per cent in the same period (35 vases in 2015 and 11 cases in 2014). The ADSI report shows residential buildings are most prone to fire outbreaks. 

In 2015, 7,493 cases of fire outbreaks were reported in residential buildings, a 100 per cent increase from 2014 (3,736 cases). In fact, 42 per cent of the deaths due to accidental fire in 2015 happened in residential buildings.

A small-town problem too

Just 20 cities recorded 81 per cent of the deaths due to building fires in 2015. Of the 20 cities, 14 are non-metros. Kanpur (147 deaths), Allahabad (134 deaths) and Bengaluru (132 deaths) recorded the highest deaths among 53 major cities monitored by the National Crime Records Bureau.

Despite the glum numbers, the country is casual about handling accidental fire cases. Starting 2000, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India has regularly flagged the Capital for non-compliance of safety norms and under-equipped fire services. Yet the number of distress calls received by Delhi Fire Services has increased from 14,500 in 2003-04 to more than 27,000 in 2015-16.

At the same time, the ADSI report released in 2015 is the most recent government data on accidental fire cases and casualty. The last government data on the country’s fire safety infrastructure came out in 2012. The lack of numbers gravely affects the country’s preparedness towards accidental fire.

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