No worries, say Bengaluru malls

Experts have also raised concern of the parking systems in malls, assembly points in the parking spaces and at entrances which also have stalls.
No worries, say Bengaluru malls

BENGALURU: With the city offering limited outing options for families, many Bengalurueans turn to shopping malls whenever they plan eat, play and have fun. Scores of people throng malls and gaming zones throughout the week and, especially on weekends, the footfall often goes through the roof.

However, the recent fire incident at Acropolis mall in Kolkata and last month’s devastating fire outbreak at a gaming zone in Gujarat that led to the death of 27 people has raised questions on the safety aspects in public entertainment venues in the city. Citizens have also expressed alarm at such incidents being repeated in the city.

While there has not been much affect on the footfall, concerns persist. “We visit a mall every fortnight. There are limited options where children can play. There are few parks or playgrounds in the city. We also need to buy groceries and other home items. So a mall is the ideal place. There are games for children to stay occupied and stores to buy kitchen and household articles. There are also food courts. But now with the fire incident, we are looking to reduce the number of visits,” said Rekha and Naveen L, a couple.

Many other people also share the same view. But mall managements seek to allay such fears, saying there is nothing to worry about.

Team TNIE did a reality check in malls and interacted with the managements. We found emergency exits, but some were locked. In some malls, there were no fire extinguishers at easily identifiable places. However, the management assured us that all safety measures were in place.

The management of Garuda Mall claimed that the mall staffers are on high alert. Nandeesh MR, CEO Garuda Mall, pointed out that they have 180 security guards deployed in shifts of 60 each. “The staffers are trained to handle any fire-related emergencies. Also a mock drill is conducted every Monday. Fire sprinklers and extinguishers are in place, including at the parking lot. Seven lakh litres of water is stored to deal with fire-related emergencies,” he said.

He clarified that almost all the malls in the city operate only after obtaining a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the fire and emergency department.

The staffers at Orion Mall said they conduct regular mock drills due to the presence of an adjoining apartment. They also said they check if sprinklers get sufficient water and safety signs are in place.

At Forum Mall, citizens expressed concern with the less number of emergency exit sign boards and lack of visible fire extinguishers at every floor. Divakar, a staff member, said the mall has six exit points in case of emergency. There is a fire alarm system and a fire extinguisher system too. Every floor has smoke detectors and route maps for emergencies. The staff also have basic knowledge about using the fire extinguishers and a monthly drill is conducted.

Uday Vijayan, Managing Trustee and President, Beyond Carlton, said with the rising number of malls, there is a concern about narrow roads leading to them. Though from 2010, when the fire at Carlton Towers had happened, till now, progress has been made, a lot more needs to be done. With spaces shrinking in the city, building setbacks must be ensured. “We are still not 100% safe. But awareness has increased,” he said.

Experts have also raised concern of the parking systems in malls, assembly points in the parking spaces and at entrances which also have stalls.

BBMP checks

Sirajuddin Madani, Chief Health Officer, BBMP, said last year, the corporation conducted a reality check in malls, hotels and restaurants in the city when there was a fire incident at the Mudpipe Cafe in Koramangala. Inspections were again done this year after a fire incident was reported at a gaming zone in Gujarat.

“All malls that have gaming zones also need to get an additional NOC from the agencies, including the fire and emergency department. The zonal BBMP officers have been put on alert and have been directed to conduct periodic inspections of malls across the city. If any lapses are found then the malls will be closed down immediately.

All malls should have a NOC from fire and emergency department. They should meet and maintain all the set rules and standards. They should have water sprinklers, fire extinguishers, emergency exits, proper ventilation and other things that have been listed,” he said.

Stay alert

Fire and Emergency Service DG and IGP Kamal Pant said there is awareness among the public on fire safety measures. Investors and brands housed in malls will not approve if the malls do not have the required permissions, he noted.

He added that there is a periodic renewal of licence, which the management of the malls and other public spaces have to comply with. The terms and conditions are spelt out in detail to all the large and small, commercial and residential spaces when seeking NOCs.

Also after the construction is completed, the fire and emergency teams check the sites before giving the final clearance. The same exercise is repeated every two years when renewing the licence. Largely all units comply with the norms.

Pant added that they are also conducting regular training sessions for citizens on fire and emergency. It is also mandatory for residents of apartment complexes and staff of commercial spaces to be trained in fire and emergency management, when seeking licence renewal. “People are now alert. They are now aware and it is a good thing,” he said.

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