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Making Delhi Safe from Fire

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A K SharmaA K Sharma
Director, Delhi Fire Service

A K Sharma provides his views on the initiatives that the Delhi Fire Service is taking to make the city safe from fire related accidents

Tell us about your vision for Delhi Fire Service. What kind of work is being done to bring further improvement in the fire fighting systems in the country?

Fire departments, all over the country, including the Delhi Fire Service department are dependent on conventional methods. The systems that are being used for planning for safety in the city are based on fire safety rules and regulations and legislations. Now Delhi is facing several new challenges as the population is growing with the population influx. There is infrastructure development happening at a massive level. Healthcare, entertainment, transportation, everything is expanding. It is not possible to meet these challenges through the use of conventional methods. In order to maintain our effectiveness and efficiency, we have to work on various platforms and one is how to streamline our work with respect to fire prevention activities.

What methods are you using to discover the areas in which the Fire Service needs to upgrade and improve?

We have to streamline our work with respect to communication. We have to streamline our planning process. For doing adequate planning, we need to know how many incidents are happening in the city every month. What type of incidents are happening? What is the demography of the people who are most effected? We can think of computer based analysis as a tool for making sense out of all the data that we are able to collect. By using modern technology for communication and analysis we can bring about a vast improvement in the services that we offer. We are also planning to use GIS for fire fighting.

Please tell us about the ways in which you will be deploying GIS?

Now, GIS as a response tool – as of now we are manually taking calls in our control room. GIS and computers can help us improve the response time. For instance, when there is a call to the station, the address can automatically appear on the map, and simultaneously the data is also sent to the nearest station. This leads to a vast improvement in our efficiency. We can also use GIS based systems to  keep track of the schools and other buildings that have received NOC from our department. The Delhi government has also come up with the “Eye in the Sky” scheme. Cameras are being installed all over the city. Under CCTNS many more cameras will come up. I have requested the authorities to give Fire Department access to the feed from these cameras.

You remarked earlier lot of new infrastructure is coming up in the city. But what about the slums, what kind of initiatives are being taken in such areas?

There is challenge due to the new infrastructure. And we also have the challenge of fire breaking out in the slums. The slums are posing a different kind of challenge compared to the new infrastructure. But over a period of time, the slums have also taken a paradigm shift in terms of use of material for construction that they use. They don’t use combustible material for building their walls. But the roofs are still made with combustible materials like tarpaulin. Also the slums have been moved from prominent places. The entire Yamuna belt was earlier prone to fire. Now at least they make their walls with non-combustible materials. The number of accidents has now come down.

Now Delhi is now growing vertically. There will be more high-rises. What type of systems are you planning to ensure safety of the upper class of the society? Do you have technology to take care of buildings more than 30 storey?

As of now the highest building in the city is of about 100 metres. No ladder is available to reach that height. The maximum length of ladder available is 92 metres. The maximum length of ladder with us is 70 metres. But there are building in planning stage that are going beyond 100 metres, may be 150-metres. In case of fire, such buildings cannot be managed from outside, it has to be fought from inside. The building has to be equipped with requisite fire safety arrangement, which should be in place, before the buildings are occupied. We are talking of a water-tank on the top and the ground level; we are talking of the pumping arrangement of that water to be brought to the various floors. We are talking of sprinkler installation at each floor, room.

If you look back at the last five years, what was the situation in fire incidents? Is there any improvement? Has it gone down?

Barring one or two incidents, there were no such incidents where things have gone out of our hands. I am talking about incidents where he had to take help from other organizations. In the last five years, we had been able to defend all the incidents successfully that has happened in the city.

What kind of water based technologies are we using to fight fire?

There is water mix technology where water is not used in stream but modified into mist and then thrown on the fire. We are using it at  limited scales. We are using it at our motorcycles, which are used for negotiating traffic and to tackle situation in congested areas. Apart from this our fire engines have got a high cum low pressure pump, which are used in discharge less quantity of water but can tackle bigger fire because it is a mix of water. Apart from that no fire retardant chemicals are being used.

Fire service department is also performing the role of investigating the fire?

Right now we do not see ourselves in this role because investigation is basically in this country is police job. You can help them out in some case when some technical inputs were required from our side. Under the CRPC only police has the investigative power.

In the next five years what would be your vision for the fire service? Where do you want to take the department? What are the new technologies that you will like to bring in?

I would like to see, increased use of computers, GIS to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of my department. The legislation part we would like to make it stronger so that violations are dealt with, not only quickly but effectively as well. And constant training and updating my training techniques, so that people are abreast with the technologies, which are coming. So these are areas we would like to work on so that the department gets dimension to reach out to people.

Many new malls are coming up. Are you satisfied with the quality of fire fighting?

It is not question of my satisfaction. It is a question whether they are law compliant. No mall is given permission unless they are complying with fire norms. It is the law. Today I can assure you, whatever malls are coming up are fire compliant.

Any message you would like to give to the young people in this city?

We are giving training to the school children. It is a constant programme. My people are imparting basic training to these school children so that tomorrow when they become a member of the society, they are aware of life safety and fire safety requirements. The message is more precautions you will take, more preventive measures you will take, the less work for us and will add to the national wealth.

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