All of us were shocked and saddened by the death of more than 90 school children in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu on July 16th, 2004. Such images of abject grief, of victims, of largely avoidable man-made disasters, occur repeatedly in India and are soon forgotten till the next incident jolts public memory again. The tragedy in Tamil Nadu occurred mainly due to the unsafe structure of the school, blocking off the only escape route of the children and due to “instructions” by the teachers to the students not to move from their places, whereas their response should have been to evacuate the children immediately and avoid the tragedy.
It is a distressing fact that most schools in our country are built with minimum concern for safety and teachers are not trained on basic life saving procedures to be followed in case of emergencies.
While the Tamil Nadu tragedy is still poignant in our minds, there is an urgent need to appraise the safety of our schools in Bangalore. We are initiating a dialogue with all concerned organizations, Government departments, Educational Institutions, Public and students to try and enumerate the essentials of handling emergencies is greatly needed.
Some of the issues we are trying to raise are:
- Press for an audit of Bangalore schools in terms of their fire safety equipments and infrastructure. Are the provisions of the National Building Code being followed in the construction of schools and colleges?
- What is the safety training provided to teachers and are they being followed? Are they adequate?
- Is there a need to enforce safety training / drill in schools as a part of curriculum (as in the case of Environment Science)?
- Is there preparedness in terms of a disaster management plan being available in such instances?
A discussion was held with the IG, DIG, Joint Director (Fire Services), Assistant Director, Town Planning, Bangalore Mahanagare Pallike and Subject Inspector, Education Department, Bangalore on “How FIRE safe are Bangalore Schools?”. It was attended by Schools, concerned parents, Scouts / Guides and representatives of NGO’s.
The Inspector General, Fire Services, has ordered that a Fire Audit of all schools in Karnataka would be undertaken to see whether they possess the basic infrastructure required to tackle a fire emergency.
The DDPI’s (Deputy Director of Public Instruction) office has assured that at least one person from all schools in Bangalore would be required to become a member of SAFE (STUDENTS ASSOCIATION OF FIRE EDUCATION). This person would in turn be able to impart the same training to others in his / her school.
We are following up with the concerned authorities to ensure that Fire safety training is made mandatory in schools and that building byelaws, which are ignored with impugnity, are followed in schools to ensure safety in case of Fire Emergencies.
- Punishable law on anvil to curb fire mishaps in schools’ – The New Indian Express, 9 August, 2004
- Fire audit in schools on, says DGP – The Hindu, 8 August, 2004
- Discussion of Fire Safety in Schools today – The Hindu, 6 August, 2004
It is crucial that all schools undergo Fire safety training at regular intervals. The Fire Department offers such training at its Fire Training College on Bannerghatta Road. Schools must ensure that at least one person undertakes that training and in turn imparts that to others in the school.
All schools must be built accordind to the building byelaws which ensure safe evacuation in case of emergencies especially fire related ones. You can visit the Bangalore Mahanagare Pallike website for further details or visit their office in person to get a copy of the latest Building Byelaws which are priced at Rs 50/-.
Ensure that your school is FIRE PROOF!