Home ›› 30 Nov 2022 ›› Opinion

Fire safety: Needs and challenges

Zakir Uddin Ahmed
30 Nov 2022 00:02:41 | Update: 30 Nov 2022 09:35:00
Fire safety: Needs and challenges

Bangladesh, the new Asian Tiger, has become one of Asia’s most remarkable economies, with phenomenal economic progress in the last ten years. It has also been attracting a large amount of Foreign Direct Investment worldwide. More industrialization proves there is ample scope for growth in the safety and security sector of the country.

Fire safety has become an integral part of our economy’s progress. After the Rana Plaza incident, most of our export-oriented businesses, especially our readymade garments industries, have adopted fire safety measures in their respective premises.

Fire safety is crucial for any business, and ensuring it should be of the utmost importance for any entrepreneur as it protects the business and lives, property, and other things involved. So a proper fire safety plan is paramount.

The most important aspect we realize after a fire accident is that it could have been prevented. Therefore, fire safety reduces the risk of injury and building damage that fires can cause. Developing and implementing fire safety protocols in the workplace is not only required by law, but it is crucial to everyone’s safety that may be in the building during a fire emergency. The importance of fire safety in the workplace is easily overlooked. If one looks around a workplace, one can easily see materials that will quickly ignite a fire, so it is necessary to discuss fire safety.

Usually, fires need three things to start – a source of ignition (heat) such as heaters, lighting, naked flames, electrical equipment, smokers’ materials (cigarettes, matches, etc.), and anything else that can get very hot or cause sparks, a source of fuel (something that burns) which include wood, paper, plastic, rubber or foam, loose packaging materials, waste rubbish, and furniture and oxygen. So each firm needs to educate its respective employees on these ingredients and hazards; as a result hazards become more easily visible around the workplace and are more likely to be handled carefully, reducing the overall risk of fire.

Another significant measure is to devise a fire prevention plan. This prevention plan will describe each employee’s responsibilities in identifying combustible materials, existing fire hazards, and heat-producing equipment. Therefore, Fire safety preparation, education, and prevention is a small price to pay versus the alternative losses that fire can bring. Organizations with proper fire safety precautions operate more effectively and financially, as reducing material warehouse losses and employee absences contributes to creating a safe and successful environment.

In addition to a fire prevention plan, an emergency response team from among the employees and management team needs to be prepared as it is critical in leading and directing other employees to safety. A fire emergency response team is a group of individuals who understand emergency procedures, fire safety, and the evacuation plan. Each team member has a protocol to follow in a fire emergency and understands the roles and duties necessary to get everybody to safety.

Proper housekeeping techniques, emergency and exit lighting, and enlisting the help of a licensed and certified fire protection company are all part of preventative maintenance. Fire mock drills and an annual fire audit should be mandatory for all organizations. We have seen expired fire equipment or products not up to the mark or hospice pipes just there for show and not useful during an incident.

Though many reforms have been taken to reduce fire hazards, the number of fire incidents in Bangladesh has increased four times over the last two decades as the country’s urban areas are expanding without basic infrastructures, like an increase in fire stations compared to high-rise buildings. Urban experts attributed the rise in fire incidents to unplanned urbanization, the violation of building rules, a pervasive culture of non-enforcement of the law, carelessness of people, increased use of gas cylinders and different electronic devices, and lack of supervision by the authorities concerned.

From the recent data from Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence, most fire incidents have occurred due to electric short-circuits in urban areas, as most buildings are not constructed maintaining the building code. So this remains the main challenge for us, so enforcing the building code should be mandatory. The Bangladeshi industry also suffers from a lack of fire safety requirements and chronic deficiencies such as safety problems, including locked or blocked fire escapes and malfunctioning fire-fighting equipment, as we have seen from the recent fire cases in the city.

Bangladesh, however, is moving in the right direction. Automatic fire extinguishers are being placed in small and medium enterprises; fireballs are becoming increasingly popular these days as they explode in a fire and extinguish it. Emergency exits are being created in most newly constructed buildings, and various reforms have been taken from the government and international organizations to reduce these unwanted hazards. So it proves how people around us are adopting fire safety measures and overcoming the misconception that fire equipment is highly expensive.

The writer is Joint Secretary General, Electronics Safety and Security Association of Bangladesh. He can be contacted at [email protected]