Many markets, bazaars, multi-storey public and private buildings are built without any fire prevention and safety mechanisms. The incidents of fire in the country are on the rise and there is need to introduce new fire safety laws and devise fire escape plans to ensure construction of buildings with emergency fire exits.

A recent incident was the electrical short circuit that occurred in a warehouse that stored fireworks in Shah Alam Market in Lahore in early February this year. The resulting fire engulfed 11 buildings, and the fire fighters faced severe difficulty in putting it out as the fire engines were unable to reach the site due to congested streets. How can such incidents be prevented?

Here are some precautions landlords and tenants should take:

  1. Ensure that the electrical wiring can bear the required electricity load. Have the wiring checked by a qualified electrician at least every six months to make sure that it is functioning properly.
  2. Take necessary precautionary measures when it comes to storing flammable material such as firecrackers and cigarette lighter fluid. Use fire-resistant cabinets and bins and ensure adequate ventilation.
  3. Never leave a smouldering cigarette, an electrical appliance or a lit stove unattended.
  4. Make sure that all electrical equipment is maintained properly and checked frequently.
  5. Fire exits should be marked clearly so people can evacuate the building in an organised manner; fire extinguishers should be placed in prominent places.
  6. Have a fire alarm system, or several smoke detectors installed for early detection.

Unfortunately, there is no mechanism in Pakistan that ensures regular inspection of all buildings for fire prevention purposes. A possible solution to this would be if the urban development, police and fire service departments worked together to ensure that construction bylaws are not violated by builders and developers. The government should also introduce and enforce modern construction rules for the safety of buildings from fire, so that commercial buildings and warehouses meet the required international standards.

— Faiza Mateen

First published in the Real Estate Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on February 20, 2011.