Disasters may be either man-made or natural. Every region is prone to one or the other kind of hazards like cyclone (Air), flood (Water), drought , earthquake (Land), Hail (Sky)etc… Fire hazards is caused by the fifth natural element the Fire. Fire disasters can again be either natural (forest fires) or man-generated ( due to bombing ) . It can occur on all three regions- above land in skyscrapers, aeroplanes; on the ground (forest fires); below the ground in mines.
Based on the cause for the outbreak of fire, it can be classified into the following two types:
- Natural : It may be caused by volcanic eruptions, damage to power lines and natural gas systems during earthquake. However, it is a complex scenario which occurs rarely.
- Man -generated : It may be the result of short circuit in buildings, electronic equipments in large companies, kitchen fires, ignition of flammable substances which are accidental. The fire emanating from garbage wastes due to reaction of chemicals and combustible substances, bombing activities also result in fire which is intentional.
II. FIRE PREVENTION STRATEGIES:
1. Prevention of fire due to Hazardous chemicals
Chemicals used and stored in school and college laboratories must adhere to strict Hazards Communication Policies. Safe storage and handling of chemicals is of prior importance to prevent combustible chemicals from producing fire hazards. Thus, these institutions must follow strict guidelines and the staffs handling them should be provided training to handle such chemicals.
2. Safety at home
! Check if you have turned off the gas before leaving home
! If you detect any leakage of gas or short-circuit, turn off your main, open the kitchen windows, alert everyone in the site to leave to open ground and immediately call to fire brigade service
! At kitchen, ensure that oil is not close to combustible substances as it intensifies the fire
! It is always advisable to wear apron or cotton clothes while working in kitchen as nylon or silk materials stick to one’s skin on burning.
! During festivals like Diwali, take atmost care while bursting crackers. Burst rockets and sky crackers at a high altitude (terrace) or open grounds (most preferable)
3. Safety at Work place
~ All companies are requested to have fire extinguishers ( minimum of one on each floor) so that incase of outbreak of fire it could be immediately put off
~ Each and every employee must be taught to operate these fire extinguishers
~ For air-conditioned rooms, emergency exits should be created
~ Incase of companies dealing with chemicals and electronic equipments it is solely their responsibility to undertake safety measures enumerated in the manual of those chemicals and electronic items
~ Unused e-items should be disposed off immediately rather than storing them in a repository
4. Safety during mass gatherings at an event
! Use decoration items that are non-combustible
! Inspect lighting wires for damaged insulation, bare wires, loose connection
! Ensure that there is no lit candles, the cooking area is away from the gathering
III. FIRE MITIGATION STRATEGIES
3.1 What to do before a Fire?
~ Prepare escape routes from the site by analyzing the different ways available with your family. Practice the route if necessary
~ Ensure that each room has a fire safety opening feature on windows for exit
~ Place fire extinguishers at various places in the building. Test and clean it at regular intervals
~ Have a ladder in a storeroom of the apartment to evacuate people from other floors
~ Don’t smoke indoors particularly near flammable substances
~ Store flammable substances like gasoline, kerosene in approved containers
~ Keep matchsticks and lighters at a high place away from the vicinity of children
3.2 What to do during Fire?
! Call fire brigade alerting services immediately
! Remember that hot air raises to the top. So, air near floor will be cooler. Try to crawl through any exit
! If you are out of the room that has got fire, keep the door closed and evacuate the room. Do not open it
! If your clothes catch fire instead of running which will only intensify it, cover yourselves with a blanket or roll on the floor till the fire is extinguished
3.3 What to do after fire?
~ Do not open any closed boxes immediately after entering the room since it would have been heated and opening it would result in bursting of contents
~On entering the house, if you still detect heat leave the room
~ Inform your landlord if it is a rented house
IV. FOREST FIRES IN INDIA
Forests are most prone to fires compared to any other kind of disasters. It is the result of flames produced from twigs that settle down on the forest cover during summer. Himalayan forests experiences forest fires frequently. Such disaster destroys the flora and fauna in that region thus disturbing the ecosystem. In Himachal Pradesh, the total number of cases registered for forest fires in the year is about 450. Forest fires can in turn be classified into various types namely underground fire, surface fire,ground fire and crown fire.In South India, it is a common practice for many tribes to carry out Slash and Burn Method of farming in which they clear a small portion of forest area and burn the vegetation in it for cultivation. This also serves them as a source of fertilisers in the form of ashes. However, if practiced continuously it may affect the environment adversely. Moreover, Forest fires result in huge amount of noxious gases being released into the atmosphere which causes health hazards like respiratory problems and global warming due to increase in the level of carbon monoxide, methane hydrocarbons. Ultimately it also results in the depletion of ozone layer.
4.1 Forest fire prevention
There is a separate forest department allocated for each and every state and union territory. Currently, the Forest Protection Division is implementing a scheme called, Modern Forest Fire Control Methods under which financial assistance is provided for all states in achieving prevention of forest fires. Using this, the state is required to obtain fire fighting equipments, construction of fire watch towers, fire resistant clothes, propagating the safety measures. Forest fires were prevented during the British regime by clearing off the forest litters during summer. This was called Forest Line. This method should now be brought into existence.
V. STEPS TAKEN BY GOVERNMENT IN PREVENTING FIRE
From the beginning, government of India has envisaged many different fire safety acts including that of Fire force bill, Fire services bill, Fire prevention and safety act for buildings. It had also taken a great step towards incorporating the subject Fire Protection and Control as part of the 7th schedule of the Constitution. Explosive rules for fire crackers, creating many awareness programs are some of the credible measures taken by the Government. Delhi Prevention act ,1986 was introduced in our capital which checks if all apartments are equipped with fire fighting instruments, providing fire safety guidelines at various Fire prevention wings. National Forest policy was adopted in the year 1988. The main aim of the policy goes like this :
” The incidence of the forest fires in the country is high. Standing trees and fodder are destroyed
on a large scale and natural regeneration annihilated by such fires. Special precautions should
be taken during the fire season. Improved and modern management practices should be
adopted to deal with forest fires.”
There are various fire mitigation strategies laid out by the government and it is our duty to follow them inorder to prevent fire disasters from happening in the future.
Online: “Fire Disasters” , saarc-sdmc.nic.in/pdf/fire.pdf