Parents Do You Know How Fire Safe Is Your Child’s School?


Majority of Schools in Mumbai Are Fire Traps

Fire Safety Compliance Engineers Mumbai

Relative number of reported fires starting in
different room types in a School

It is a fact that Mumbai’s swank private school buildings, where your kids spend more than six hours every day, may not be fire safe.  Over two years after the Mumbai fire brigade inspected 812 municipal, aided and private schools in the city on safety measures and found several glaring loopholes and asked for corrective measures, none of the schools has filed a compliance report yet. If you are a parent reading this, you would do well to find out if the school that your child goes to has conducted a fire audit.

If not please ensure at the next PTA that the school authorities comply and initiate best practices to prevent a fire and to ensure speedy exit for children in case a fire does get ignited within the school premises. Shake off that complacency – we are talking about the lives of our children here for heaven’s sake! Children are least concerned and know little about the dangers to their lives. It is our job as adults to ensure that our children are protected and secure. Let me shed some light below on the typical locations within a school’s premises where a fire can easily take birth.

The relative number of reported fires starting in different room types is shown in the figure on the left. Note that some areas of special fire hazard (eg, heat bays) do not appear within this pie chart, partly because such rooms are relatively few in number, and partly because extra fire safety precautions (eg, extinguishers) will have been provided, enabling fires to be dealt with while they are still small, and thus not requiring Fire and Rescue Service intervention.Note the relatively large number of cloakroom and toilet fires, most of which are cases of arson. This information can be used as part of a quantified risk assessment, to estimate the frequency of fires starting in different room types.

What is Fire Safety Engineering?

The definition of fire safety engineering used by the Institution of Fire Engineers in the UK is:

‘The application of scientific and engineering principles based on an understanding of the phenomena and effects of fire and of the behaviour of people to fire, to protect people, property and the environment from the destructive effects of fire.’

The principal objective of fire engineering is, when fire occurs, to provide an acceptable level of safety. Often this will involve calculation or modelling of scenarios affecting all or part of the fire ‘system’.

Fire safety engineering is a risk-based approach and should provide a flexible and cost-effective way of solving the design problems and management issues. It requires taking a more holistic approach to a problem than may be taken when using more prescriptive methods. Additional factors, covered implicitly in the prescriptive approach, need to be considered explicitly.

It is often the interactions between different aspects that cause difficulties in practical situations. Solutions to problems of a building’s day-to-day use (ventilation, structural, security, etc) may conflict with requirements for fire safety. Fire safety engineering must be undertaken using a systematic approach to avoid potentially life-threatening omissions in the analysis. The flow diagram below outlines a suggested approach to the design process, following BS7974 (2001): Application of fire safety engineering principles to the design of buildings in the UK – Code of practice.

Flow chart Basic Fire Safety Design Process,

Flow chart illustrating the basic design process

Fire safety engineering will be most effective if it is included in the overall design process at the earliest possible opportunity. It should also be emphasised that the  process is iterative, evolving and continuing throughout the overall design process until the design is complete. 

The key stages are:

• the qualitative design review (QDR);

• the quantitative analysis;

• the assessment; and

• reporting.

Here, particularly at the qualitative design review stage, the interaction of all the building systems are considered as well as the detailed performance of the fire protection systems. A wide variety of measures could be considered and incorporated to a greater or lesser extent, as appropriate in the circumstances.

These include:

• the adequacy of means to prevent fire;

• early fire warning by an automatic detection and warning system;

• the standard of means of escape;

• the standard of active measures for fire extinguishment or control;

• provision of smoke control;

• control of the rate of growth of a fire;

• structural robustness and the adequacy of the structure to resist the effects of a fire;

• the degree of fire containment;

• fire separation between buildings or parts of buildings;

• facilities to assist the Fire and Rescue Service;

• availability of powers to require staff training in fire safety and fire routines;

• consideration of the availability of any continuing control under other legislation that could ensure continued maintenance of such systems; and

• management.

I will discuss more about QDR, assessment and reporting in future articles. But here’s the moot question. Has your child’s school conducted reviews of all the above points. Take a print out of the above points and confront the school authority about the same. This article should wake you up to the science of fire safety engineering and should serve as a wake up call for you to ensure that your ward’s school hirse fire safety engineers to consult and eliminate the risks that the school faces in the event of a fire. As Mumbai’s top fire safety consultants we have on board some of the best fire safety engineers in the country who can effectively review the inherent fire risks in a school and suggest protocols and guidelines for fire safety that are in line with the highest global norms prevalent today. You can call me on my cell number +91 98206 07875 to fix up a meeting between us and your child’s school authorities today! 

Author Bio

Amit Sen, a commercial pilot by training, has over 15 years experience in the space of corporate investigations, handling Copyright & Trademark infringement cases, Pre – employment verification Industrial Espionage investigations, Asset & Net – Worth assessment assignments and vendor / supplier verification cases, among others. Co-founder of Alliance One Detectives – which is the best fire safety consulting company in Mumbai. Amit has also successfully completed assignments in a wide range of sectors, including the machine tools industry, pharmaceutical industry, hospitality sector, specialized equipment (Oil & natural gas sector, aviation industry etc.), telecom industry & the IT & ITes sectors. These cases have all involved both offline and online investigations.

Article edited and co-written by Atin Dasgupta who is the co-founder and marketing head of Alliance One. Read more about Atin here.

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