Dr. Vikram Mehta, MD of SPARTAN Fire Evacuation Lift (fondly known as the Fire Evacuation Man of Maharashtra)
Buying a house in the dream city of Mumbai is the dream of millions of people. A developing infrastructure, a secure work life, better education, and healthcare facilities are what make the city so amazing to live in. It is called to be the country’s financial and commercial center. But over the past couple of years, it has raised a question on the city’s existing fire safety solution. The city is under constant threat of fire accidents. The city’s vertical development has raised concerns over fire safety and evacuation. In the past five months, there were around 8 major fire incidents took place in Mumbai’s high-rise buildings. In each fire incident, it has been noticed that buildings’ firefighting systems failed to work, and there are no evacuation solutions to save the lives and assets of the people.
In 2022, Mumbai reported a total of 1996 fire calls, of which one was a level 4 call (major fire), one a level 3 call (medium fire), 12 level 2 calls (also medium fire), and 26 level 1 calls (small fires). As per the RTI information, there were 48,434 fire calls received from 2008 to July 2018. Out of these, 1,568 broke out in high-rise apartments. A total of 609 people lost their lives, and property damage to the tune of ₹ 89,04,86,102 occurred in these fire incidents. The common factor in all those fire accidents was the challenges faced by the firefighters to reach higher floors and evacuate people on time. Though we have Fire Ladders, Fire Lifts, and Fire Towers as safety equipment. But, the question is whether there is relevance and accountability towards evacuation during such fire incidents.
Here is why Fire Evacuation Lift is an adequate evacuation solution than the Fire Tower:
- The cabin of a fire evacuation lift is made of non-combustible material, and all side-enclosed panels are filled with ceramic wool with a 2-hour fire rating. In contrast to the fire evacuation lift, due to lack of specifications, builders are dodging the norms of the Fire Tower and they are designing it in such a way that it has becomes the regular staircase area. No fire-resistant door is provided.
- The two-way communication system of the lift makes it easy for a person standing on any floor to communicate with the lift operator during fire accidents. However, in the Fire Tower, there is no call button, making communication difficult during fire emergencies.
- If the diesel generator and primary power supply fail, the fire evacuation lift can be run for 30 minutes using the battery backup. However, there is no provision for battery backup in a fire tower.
- During such fire emergencies, the fire evacuation lift has a trap door on the roof that facilitates the evacuation. However, there is no trap door in a fire tower.
- The landing and car door in a fire evacuation lift has a 2-hour fire-rated vision panel, which helps the fireman avoid fatigue. Due to the lack of a such vision panel in the fire tower, the fireman cannot see the floor condition from the lift car and must step out. They are frequently unaware of the smoke situation on the floor, which causes fatigue.
- The fire evacuation lift has an IoT (Internet of Things)-based control panel that sends automatic notifications to the nearest fire department, society members, and residents in the event of a fire. It has features that allow the user and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to access real-time data such as total operating hours, day-by-day operating hours, fault history, etc. Everyone, from the users to the fire department, is alarmed by the faster and simple communication process. However, all these features are missing in a fire tower.
- Other people may use the fire towers in normal circumstances, but in fire emergencies, only firemen can operate the fire tower.
- The fire evacuation lift can accommodate 8-15 people, whereas in Fire Tower it becomes difficult to carry seamless evacuation due to space and crowd in the area.
- The Fire Evacuation Lift is faster than any available evacuation solution due to its speed. It can evacuate 80 to 90 people in 30 minutes without any obstacles. Whereas it is not possible in Fire Tower.
- The capacity of a Fire Evacuation Lift is a minimum of 1050kg/15 person, whereas Fire Tower has a loading capacity of not less than 545 kg.
- Most important part as per the law firefighters cannot use the Fire Tower to reach higher floors, they have to stop it below two floors of the affected area and are forced to use the staircase to reach other floors. Whereas, Fire Evacuation Lift works like a savior for firefighters as they can use it to reach any floor, especially the higher floors.
If anything, the above incidents and facts entail how the intensity of fire accidents in Mumbai is certainly on the rise and how it is a critical need of the hour to deploy better fire evacuation measures. The Maharashtra Energy Department has already issued an advisory that all high-rises in the state that are equal to or taller than 70 meters need to have a Fire Evacuation Lift (FEL) installed to speed up the evacuation process during fire emergencies.
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