In the recent past, we have seen several highrises being doused up in flames and our fire fighters struggling to put them out. Why so? It is because they don’t have a proper manual to refer to. In a recent article in a Mumbai tabloid we learnt that the existing manual was written in the British era, which was 1940’s. It is a basic collection of guidelines and has no specifications listed down for highrises. All it states how to handle fire extinguishers, which are also outdated. Technology and methods of fighting fire have advanced since then, but clearly our manuals have not.
Here are some basic tips in how to fight fire in highrises:
Study the Site
First thing that any firefighting unit should do is assesses the situation. The height of the building, the objects falling from it, internal layouts, etc must be studied. For this, they must have the blue print or the construction layout of the highrise.
The members of the housing society must remain calm and stay away from floors under fire. If they are stuck, they must find a refuge area and try and inform the firefighters about the same. Managing Committee members must inform the residents via SMS pack on their apartment management software to cover their nose and mouth with a damp cloth and keep low. Inhaling smoke causes more casualties than the fire itself.
Evacuation of Buildings
Firefighters need to identify the fire exit and perform evacuation operations accordingly. To rescue those who are stuck on other floors, alternate evacuation arrangements need to be made for the same. These involving breaking past walls, using ladders, window rescue operations and so on. The commander holds the key as he/she guides others and leads the rescue operation.
Housing society members must listen and obey every instruction given by the firefighters in such situations.
Resources and Equipment
It is vital that firefighters are well equipped with all essential resources and equipment’s like fire hydrants, protective gear, fire engines, ladders, oxygen masks and so on. When heading inside buildings, it is vital that the lobby areas are cleared first. Then the team must establish themselves 2 stories below the fire floor. This area is called staging and must not be in a stairwell but in an open lobby. This acts as a base where equipment is placed and can be used as an area to treat injured firefighters and civilians.
Housing society members must not scream or shout when communicating. They should make use of their mobile phones to send messages across. This helps reduce the chances of them inhaling smoke. Also, the support staff should assist the firefighting team in securing water supply lines to attach their equipment.
Once the firefighters are out of the building, they must be giving enough room to breathe. Also a fresh set of firefighters should be sent to double check for casualties. The medical units must attend to those injured. Debris clearance work must commence and also the structure must be cordoned off and sealed by them.
Housing society members must not enter the building to procure their belongings. Also, those injured must see medical personnel and visit hospitals, if required.
In a situation like this, when your highrise is on fire, make use of the SMS pack on your ADDA to warn all residents and also give tips on how to keep themselves safe. With improper safety measures and absence of a manual, it has become vital that housing society members educate themselves about these things too.