When it comes to fire safety, we must work together
Historically, fire has been one of the most essential parts for human development but it has also been a cause of mass destruction. It’s a double-edged sword that can prove fatal if not managed and measured properly.
Within the span of the last few months, Bangladesh witnessed tragedies like no other. More than a hundred lives were lost in blazes across Dhaka -- the Chawkbazar fire explosion, the FR Tower fire in Banani, and the Gulshan 1 DCC market fire incident.
It is a situation that we should never find ourselves in yet we constantly do. Now the question remains -- how we get rid of these calamities? Are we as much to be blamed as the concerned authority?
The stark reality of the current situation is that many of the buildings in Dhaka are at risk of fire and potential loss of life. This can be attributed to the poor conditions of buildings as well as the lack of knowledge we all have about safety.
It is true that we all feel let down by the quality and standards the developers and building managers have adhered to and followed over the past 20-30 years for which we are now paying the price for.
So, naturally, the blame goes to the concerned authority. However, did we ever think about our role in these incidents collectively as well as how our contribution in the future can decrease the damage or might prevented such calamities?
The truth is that we hardly ever do. After every incident, we discuss, throw blame at various parties, but never do what is needed. Let me give you a practical example. Once, I used to work at a place where everybody knew that the building was full of faults.
There was no fire alarm, no fire exit, no fire extinguisher, nothing to depend on -- the tiniest flame could have burned the whole place down. You can call us lucky that it never happened but were we really lucky or foolish or both?
We could have easily talked to the owner to get this solved but we didn’t. We were all busy with our own lives, indifferent to the danger that we’re throwing our life into. Thankfully, in this situation there was no incident. Some are not so lucky.
With basic technology and preparedness you can save yours and others’ lives as well. Just ensuring technologies like fire alarms, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, fire balls, etc are around can keep you safe from any massive damage.
Besides technology, infrastructural planning can also help a great deal. Having proper ventilation always helps you to keep away from fire. Even if a fire breaks out, you need an adequate fire exit or stairs that can be wide enough for people to run freely through.
Authorities have a larger share in those faulty infrastructures but we have our own share too. Assuming that we didn’t know before, when we come to know of something that does not look right within the building, or is potentially going to cause issues, we should look to make the corrections accordingly.
Ultimately, it is us who will pay the price if there is an issue so we should take greater ownership to ensure that these issues are solved.
There are three phases we need to know about fire safety -- before, during, and after an incident. The above mentioned points should be followed at the before stage.
We should ask ourselves: Do we know what to do when you are in the middle of a fire? Where to look first, how much fire can we extinguish with a fire extinguisher? Do we use water or not to extinguish the fire? Should we use the lift or stairs or the fire exit?
The answer to these question might save your life in.
After the fire is in control, we should not point fingers at each other. Rather, we need to mutually come to a point from where we can start afresh and leave our mistakes behind.
Whilst the authorities, along with the developers and building owners, have a job to improve safety in their buildings in the future, as Bangladeshis and other residents of this country, who have to live and work in this environment, we need to wake up and be aware of the steps that we can take to improve the safety and security of our own environments.
We often think that we’ll never be the victim of a fire but, despite all our best efforts, the risk of a fire will always exist. Accidents happen, and many of their causes are beyond our control.
It is our job to ensure that ultimately we are as prepared as possible to deal with such scenarios and ensure our protection, and taking the simple steps outlined here will help to achieve this.
It is true -- we are all living and working in fear as a result of the recent fires. But this fear needs to stop. It can’t continue as it is taking away our everyday spirit and peace from life.
We all likely know someone who has been impacted by the recent fires and we know the devastation that it has caused -- let’s not go through it again.
Mark Nosworthy is Chief Executive Officer, bproperty.com.