Most building designs lack fire safety measures

Fire safety measures are ignored in most building designs in Bangladesh posing a high risk to human lives, a leading architect told a seminar in the capital yesterday.

Building owners, particularly of tall ones, must install escape plans with the help of professional architects and engineers, said the leading architect, Prof Nizamuddin Ahmed, also a leading Rotarian and national programme committee chair of Bangladesh Scouts.

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Rotary Club of Dhaka Urbana in association with Bangladesh Scouts and Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence organised the safety seminar, “Earth, Steel and Fire”, at a hotel.

Lack of planned escape routes lead to deaths from suffocation and being crushed in panicking crowds, said Prof Nizamuddin, adding that narrow lanes and water shortages in localities, particularly in Dhaka city’s case, are two others making fires devastating.

Advent of taller buildings and use of enclosed areas for air conditioning and of highly combustible materials have increased the number of possible fire hazards, he said.

He urged the regulatory authorities and building owners to make sure alternative staircases at a distance from planned escape passages, there are “refuge cells” or places in tall buildings designed for situations when evacuation may not be safe or possible, and the required number of escape doors at garment factories as per Bangladesh National Building Code and Building Construction Rules.

There were 12 firefighting stations in the capital after Bangladesh gained independence and only one was established in the over four decades afterwards though the population multiplied many times, he said pointing at the fire department’s inadequacy.

Mohammad Abu Sadeque, director of House Building Research Institute, said $1 spent for any disaster preparedness would save $10-worth damage.

In Dhaka city’s case, he said more people would be killed in gas explosion fires than in building collapses during earthquakes and so gas transmission and supply pipeline joints should be made flexible.

Simple awareness messages on disaster preparedness should be disseminated in school curriculums, he said.

The club along with the fire service and Bangladesh Scouts launched a five-year awareness programme for disaster safety.

Senior Secretary to home affairs Md Mozammel Haque Khan, the fire service Director General Brig Gen Ali Ahmad Khan and retired civil engineering professor Shamim Z Bosunia also spoke.

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