CHENNAI:In the backdrop of four fire mishaps in the city on Monday, experts who spoke to City Express explained that homes, commercial buildings and hutments should ensure proper electrical wiring, practise safe cooking methods and ensure proper disposal of accumulated waste.
The most common causes for fire are electrical short circuit and gas leakage. In addition, a cigarette butt can also lead to fire, if smokers are in the vicinity. According to former DGP R Natraj, who has headed the Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services , fire accidents can be prevented by ensuring proper wiring. “Most residents install electrical appliances like air-conditioners that work on high-voltage, but don’t change the wiring. This causes sparks and leads to fires,” he said.
To prevent these, fire-resistant casings should be installed. Since these cost three times the normal plastic casing, people generally avoid buying it, said Natraj. “If the casing retards fire, it will prevent its spread,” he said.
Another official of the Tamil Nadu Fire Services said that the wiring in old houses would not be able to handle a number of appliances which were commonplace now, and hence the electrical wiring could break down, causing fires.
Fires caused due to cooking gas could be avoided by ensuring that the tubes are not leaking, and using stoves and gas cylinders in proper manner. “In some places, we have seen people keeping the cylinder in horizontal position. Stoves should be on the same level as cylinders. Stove should always be on a platform and the cylinder should be placed vertically,” said the Fire official.
Stocking up of combustible material like cardboard boxes inside houses and small shops should be avoided, as they aid in the spread of fire, experts noted. As far as commercial establishments were concerned, Natraj recommended a strict once-a-year inspection and safety audits. “These buildings should also have a emergency exit in case of a major fire,” he said. Though many buildings had smoke detectors, irregular maintenance would render them useless when they were required the most, the official said. “Five-star hotels should try to install smoke-suction devices as after a fire breaks out, the smoke causes maximum panic,” Natraj said.
A common occurrence during the months of April and May is hutment fires. Natraj said that the Fire Services always stationed vans near such colonies, as the shelter itself was built entirely with combustible material. “Since they are located close to each other, the fire spreads. The causes are the same — electrical wiring and poor cooking practices,” he said.
Natraj said that the Fire Services personnel would sprinkle water on top of the huts to keep them wet during summer.
- Ensure electrical wiring is proper. Install fire-retarding casings
- Practise safe cooking procedures. Tubes should not have punctures or leakages
- Commercial buildings should have emergency exits and smoke detectors. Regular safety audits
- Water can be sprinkled on hutments to keep them cool and prevent fires