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Fire safety: What is the law?

  • Published at 05:59 pm March 29th, 2019
The condition of the FR Tower building in Banani in the aftermath of the fire that broke out on Thursday, March 28, 2019 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka tribune

Dhaka Tribune has taken a deep look at the Bangladesh National Building Codes  to determine what facilities a build should have to protect its residents from fire

After the deadly Faruk Rupayan Tower (FR Tower) fire, which has claimed 25 lives so far, the authorities concerned say the building was built in violation of building codes.

Dhaka Tribune has taken a deep look at the Bangladesh National Building Codes  to determine what facilities a build should have to protect its residents from fire.

According to the Bangladesh National Building Codes (BNBC) any building over six-storeys is by definition a high rise building.

In such building, building owners must follow fire safety rules and install fire fighting equipment. Before completing construction work, building owners have to obtain Fire Service approval.

Fire Service will check the building and if the building complies with all fire safety design requirements and has adequate firefighting equipment, then only will the Fire Service issue a No Objection Certificate (NOC).

Also Read- FR Tower violated all safety rules

According to the Bangladesh National Building Codes’ ‘Fire Drill and Evacuation Procedure’ section, every building must have an emergency evacuation protocol, a first aid and firefighting plan, training and responsibilities for occupants, compliant with the requirements provided therein.

All occupants of buildings must be trained in first aid and firefighting.

Also Read- Banani fire death toll 25

According to BNBC, high rise buildings have to be equipped with hydrant and sprinkler systems so water is sprayed automatically if room temperature goes above 62 degrees Celsius.

High rise buildings must be equipped with heat detectors, flame detectors, rate-of-rise heat detectors, and smoke detectors, including ionization chamber smoke detectors and chemically sensitive smoke detectors.

BNBC requires Fire Service and Civil Defense to check high rise buildings for sprinklers installed every 10 feet.

Smoke is the biggest hazard

Fire Service officials said that in a burning building, smoke kills more people than the fire itself.

People can die from smoke inhalation if the building does not provide a means of escape to a place of safety, they said.

The law requires buildings to set up smoke detectors in each and every room. Smoke venting devices are required to be designed and installed so they operate automatically at the earliest sign of fire or smoke.

At the FR Tower fire incident, several people jumped off FR Tower and adjacent buildings as there were no escape routes.

Also Read- FR Tower fire: 24 bodies handed over

The building code says the maximum height for an apartment building should be six stories. Unfortunately, the Dhaka Metropolis Building Construction Rules 2008 allows 10-storied residential buildings with one staircase and exit.

However, buildings with over 500 occupants must have at least two staircases, and fire exits need to have doors that block out fire and smoke.

Escape staircases must be protected against fire. Such staircases must have positive air pressure, connected through a pressurized lobby.

Alternate routes must be available in a fire to the extent that every home in a building must have an escape plan. Staircases and alternate exits should be as far apart as possible from each other.

66.1% buildings violate the code

After the deadly FR Tower,the  authorities concerned said the building was built in violation of building codes.

Not only FR Tower but most of the buildings along Kamal Ataturk Avenue, do not have fire protection, including Banani Super Market, Hotel Sweet Dream, and Hadi Tower, according to  the Fire Service.

Major Shakil Newaz, director (operations) of the Fire Service, said they had written to all building owners on the road at least five to six times to take precautions for fire safety, but no one complied.

Housing and Public Works Minister SM Rejaul Karim had earlier on February 3, expressed concern saying around 66% of Dhaka’s buildings violate building codes.

He made the disclosure in parliament.

However, senior Rajuk official Abul Kalam Azad says the actual percentage is higher than the survey.

Professor Jamilur Reza Choudhury, who was involved with formulating the BNBC, said though most building owners do not follow BNBC regulations, the authorities concerned do not take any measures against builders.

“According to the law, builders have to obtain approval from 11 authorities, including the Fire Service, but most do not. They move ahead by bribing the authorities concerned,” he said.

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