– by Uday Vijayan, Managing Trustee & President – Beyond Carlton.
The loss of my son in the Carlton Towers incident in Bengaluru on 23rd February, 2010, led me to set up a citizen-driven think tank on fire safety called BEYOND CARLTON. The thought was to move beyond the accident and make an attempt to highlight the importance of fire safety amongst the various stakeholders. Looking back, I never imagined I would spend close to 10 years around fire safety issues that I knew little about then.
At Beyond Carlton, year on year, we await the only published fire statistics by the National Crime Records Beaurau (NCRB), Govt. of India. The much-awaited Accidental and Death Statistics India (ADSI) 2018 report was released by NCRB recently. Among many things, the report forms the basis for us to know how secure we are with regard to fire safety in India. The report gives us an understanding of the total accidental fire deaths, state-wise data, places of fire accidents for instance, commercial, residential buildings, etc. This report also helps us to know which states are vulnerable, which environments are seeing most fatalities, what demographics are suffering the most, and so on. This should help all those involved in urban development and planning to look at ways to improve fire safety conditions in the nation.
But like the rest of the world, any reporting on accidents is most often an underestimation either because of poor reporting or concealment of data.
So, what does the latest NCRB 2018 report say?
Did you know, over the last 4 years 2015-2018), we have lost 60507 lives due to fire hazards?
In 2018, a total of 13,099 cases of fire accidents were reported in the country, showing a marginal decrease of 2.2% during 2018 over 2017 (13,397 cases). Is the decrease because of under-reporting or are we seeing a shift in the number of fatalities from fire accidents?
As many as 12,748 people died in the year 2018, which means that about 35 Indians die in a fire everyday.
4290 fire-related deaths were in the 18-30 years age group followed by 3860 in the 30-45 years age group. These vulnerable age groups together accouxnt for 63% of all fire-related deaths.
More women die in a fire: Out of 12748 fire deaths in 2018, 7244 were women while 5503 men lost their lives in a fire.
5 states account for 55% of the fire accidents: Fire accidents in Madhya Pradesh (1986 fire deaths), Maharashtra (1896), Gujarat (1194), Chhattishgarh (976) and Odhisha (897) account for 55% of the total fire accidents. Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra account for 30% of the accidents making it the tinderboxes of India – 3882 fire deaths in two of the states put together.
More people die in home/residential fires: 56% of the deaths were because of home fires – the total number of fire accidents reported in residences were 7208, which is 56 per cent of the total fire accidents.
Cooking gas bursts has emerged as the largest killer: 2672 people of which 1967 were women. This makes it the largest cause of fire-related deaths. Although there is a small drop in cases due to cooking gas reported in 2018 (2670) vs 2017 (3260). Bihar, Jharkhand and Maharashtra were the most prone to these deaths.
It all seems to add up, the large number of women dying in fires, residential fires being the largest location for fatalities and cooking gas burst deaths all seem to add up. This clearly tells us our homes are not really safe and need urgent attention and focus.
Electrical short-circuits caused the death of 1368 men – A total of 1970 fire accidents were caused by electrical short-circuit of which 1368 were men. Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Karnataka were the states with the most deaths from such cases.
What does this all mean?
– If the reporting of data is accurate, there is a decrease in fire accidents compared to previous years. Does it indicate that we are slowly moving towards reducing the fire accidents or is it poor reporting? We will watch and analyse the reports for the next couple of years to make this assumption with more certainty.
– Our fire safety laws are archaic and our fire departments are not well-equipped to handle the modern high-rise buildings. We have sub-optimal fire infrastructure, fewer fire stations, poorly trained staff, low budgetary grants.
– Our homes are also increasingly becoming unsafe as they pose a huge fire threat because we have so many inflammable items – upholstery, decorative materials, electrical gadgets, LPG connections. Most of the residential fires are caused by cooking fires and electrical short-circuits.
– We need mass awareness programs, especially at homes.
– We need to ensure all mandatory implementation of existing fire safety guidelines. We need to ensure all laws are followed with no exceptions and with strict deterrents in place.
As we move towards rapid urbanization and development, our governments should be more pro-active in implementing fire safety laws and creating awareness. I propose a national fire safety law with strict deterrents on the lines of the Road Safety Act announced recently. Let’s not allow state governments to dilute them. Ask a family who lost someone in an accident and they will always support strict measures rather than populistic softening of public safety laws.
Till then, we will continue to hear daily of fire deaths and we will remain apathetic to fire accidents unless it happens to one.
Do remember: Fire kills. Let’s prevent it.
Uday Vijayan – Managing Trustee & President – Beyond Carlton
This was another special feature blog by respected Mr. Uday Vijayan, whose efforts of making India more fire-safe glow brighter everyday. We will continue to present relevant news and interesting insights across industries with the help of our wide network, and the much-appreciated collaboration of our contributors.
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