1. Prologue:

Fire is among one of the early discoveries of mankind. It is believed to have been discovered in the Early Stone Age by our ancestors. The discovery of fire was the vital turning point for human evolution. Fire has always been an integral part of our daily lives since the primitive age. It acted as a source of warmth for early humans making their survival easy in harsh weather conditions that allowed them to settle in temperate areas from tropical and sub-tropical areas. It also acted as a source of light and an aid for protection from animals in the dark permitting them to conduct their night-time activities in pitch darkness. Some believed that fire initiated the sense of sharing and communal behaviour in early humans. Fire was also used for cooking bringing about a shift from raw food to cooked diet. The discovery of the fire led to the extraction of metals using smelting techniques and manufacturing of tools, weapons and machinery from the extracted metals. This results in succession to the Metal Age from the Stone Age. Mythologies across the world & also in India depicted the utility of fire. It is considered the strongest force in the universe and is often associated with divine origin. For instance, the Chinese and the Hebrews believed the fire to be a symbol of divinity, while it was considered as a symbol of superiority and control in Egypt. The ancient Greeks believed that Prometheus donated fire to the humans for civilization by stealing it from the Gods. Worshipped as the God ‘Agni’ in Hinduism, fire signifies the primordial power to consume, transform and convey and forms a part of the ‘Panchabhuta’ which is the basis of material existence.

Fire is treated as the symbol of purity in many religions and mythologies. It is believed that fire and agricultural implements helped the early Vedic people to change from pastoral to agriculturists’regime and laid the foundation of the Aryan civilization. Through the medieval and modern times, fire has helped human civilization to flourish and prosper. While playing the role of harbinger of civilization as we know it, fire has also proved to be one of the most destructive phenomena known to humankind. Fire can be extremely harmful if not dealt with carefully. It can cause a huge number of deaths, injuries and property loss. As said, fire is a very good servant but a ruthless master. It can even adversely affect the environment and the ecosystem by generating a large amount of smoke pollution and releasing greenhouse gases. Such has been the destructive nature of fire, that it has been acknowledged in many religions like Christianity and Judaism as the wrath of God. The great Indian epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata depict fires, as‘Lankadahana’ and ‘Jatugriha’ respectively,being the turning point of the narrative.


Fire is also symbolized as the sufferings of a person in Buddhism to depict the destructive nature of the fire. The genesis of fire hazards in modern time is closely related to the Industrial Revolution. Prior to this, the pattern of the human settlements was scattered and dispersed. People used to live in their farms separated from each other by large fields and so the chances of spreading of the fire were remote in case of any fire outbreak. Fire outbreaks, then, was just a concern of individual families. During the industrial revolution, people started settling in urban areas in compact spaces that increased the risk of fire spreading in case of an outbreak. This changed the perception of fire outbreaks from individual concern to a threat for the whole community as a fire in any house or shop could burn the entire neighborhood. With industrialization, the frequency of fires also started increasing due to the explosions and outbreaks in the factories and mills because of the failure of machinery and equipment. Another type of fire hazards stem from wild fires like- forest/jungle fires or bush fires, known differently in different areas. Forest fires are critical hazards, responsible for significantly affecting 1% of forests annually, on an average. About 35 million hectares of forest land in India are affected by fires per year, of which 95% have an anthropogenic origin.

Fire or combustion is the process of burning. It is a chemical reaction initiated by presence of heat energy in which a substance combines with oxygen in the air to get oxidized and the process is accompanied by emission of energy in the form of heat, light and sound. We know that the continuation of fire needs continuous supply of heat, fuel and oxygen in the affected buildings. Therefore we must concentrate about these factors. The supply of oxygen is common and continuous from the atmosphere.

Property loss is the direct consumption of combustible materials by fire flame, but the loss of lives are occurring not only by the fire flame but also by heat, smoke, fumes and other toxic substances which are released at the time of fire. The most important aspect in fire incidents is the loss of human lives.The excessive heat during the fire accidents will give different level degree of burning, if the body gets more than 30% of burning wounds the survival possibility will become very less. Generally Smokes are clouds of small particles, bigger size particles are called dust which is also mixed in the smoke. This smoke will affect the vision, making a person to loss his sense of direction, creating more discomfort, breathing will become difficult. It will close all exits and the escape routes. The possibilities of escape from the building may become impossible. The fumes and the toxic substances are present in the fire zone are in the form of narcotics and irritants. The narcotics are carbon dioxide, hydrogen cyanide, benzene, acetone, etc. High concentration of these substances is renderingan exposed person to become unconscious. At lower concentration these substance will affect the nervous and cardiovascular system and reduce mental and pumping function of heart of the exposed person, due to these physical and mental problems, the escape from building become impossible.The irritants are hydrochloric acid or fumes of burnt items. It will prevent escape by affecting the eyes and it is moving in upward direction and damage lungs and causes the subsequent death of the victims who have survived the immediate exposure. These losses are un-compensable and un-bearable in life.


Here are some of the worst fire disasters in India that will haunt people for years to come:


The fire occurred on June 13, 1997 at Upahaar Cinema in Green Park, Delhi, during the screening of the movie ‘Border’. One of the worst fire tragedies in the history of India, this disaster left 59 dead, mostly due to suffocation because of being trapped inside the cinema hall. In fact, at least 103 people were seriously injured in the resulting stampede.

Lack of a functional PA system and emergency lights, foot light and exit lights, blocked gangways, blocked exits with most of the doors locked, and obstruction at available exits due to unauthorized shops were some of the reasons for the event to take such a severe turn. Absence of fire extinguishers and lack of periodic maintenance of fire extinguishing & other appliances also contributed heavily towards more casualties.


It is believed to be the second most deadly fire disaster in twenty years in Delhi, first being the Uphaar theatre blaze. On December 8, 2019, Delhi woke up to a massive fire at Anajmandi factory building. The four-storey building was cramped with sleeping labourers. The fire broke out on the second floor of the building around 5 am in the morning.In the incident, 43 people lost their lives and 16 were severely injured. With the help of 150 firefighters, the fire was doused within four hours from the time of the incident. As per the fire brigade officials, they received several fire emergency calls on the way but it was not possible to reach the incident spot immediately due to some entry blockages, however, the concerned authorities didn’t take any required actions against the illegal constructed factories being run in the tapered lanes.


Another fire disaster, made worse on the account of having taken place in a hospital, occurred at the AMRI Hospital at Dhakuria in South Kolkata at 2:30 am on 9 December 2011. A short circuit in the basement of the building resulted in inflammable substances catching fire which spread through the hospital at a very rapid rate. The central AC system carried the smoke all through the building, causing asphyxiation and 95 people including members of the staff died as a result.While the fire broke out at 3am, the fire tenders were called for only at 4 am and by the time they arrived it was 5 am. Meanwhile, local youth succeeded in saving many lives. The rescue operation by the fire brigade was further hampered due to lack of a blueprint of the building plan.

Ignition of fire: The basement floor used as storage area of diesel, motor oil and wooden furniture store room and the fire started from there.

Fire feeding materials: All the floors accommodated with hospital needed common hazard materials for speeding the fire very rapidly as the contributory factor.

Fire spread: The building having basement, ground + six floors. All doors, windows, exterior finishes are constructed by glass materials. The exterior glasses are not opening or breakable easily to make the passage of fire-fighting. The fire sprinkler, fire smokers, vent opening on the top are not provided. As soon as the fire started due to combustible materials in all floors thick density of dark coloured smoke, fumes and toxic substances produced, it starts to move basement to upward direction along with the fire flame. Chucking out of smoke from building to outside took four hours after breaking the glasses by the fire professionals. The fire spread was very high in the building.

Reasons for major lives losses: As the cubical shape of building without proper ventilation, the fire flame makes the building inside very hot and the smoke covered the entire building and blocked all escape routes. As the patients there cannot make their way out due to suffocation, breathing difficulty, vision obscurity mainly succumbed to death.

Failure aspects: Provision of minimum requirements of firefighting appurtenances, housekeeping, security arrangement, disaster management by the hospital management and evacuation procedures totally failed.

Solution for betterment:If the building might have been provided with proper vent opening and the required fire-fighting appurtenances are on spot, it can reduce the volume of fire and smoke, or may extinguish and chuck out the smoke quickly, and thereby, can save thelives of patients especially in the upper floors.Information reached the fire professionals after two hours ofburning; the reaching of building by firefighters took another two hours dueto morning traffic congestion. If the information is given on time, they might have reached on time; extinguishment of fire, large number of lives saving might have been done thereby.


A fire broke out in the historical building, Stephen Court, in Park Street, on March 23, 2010. It killed at least 42 people. Apart from the fire brigade took around 80 minutes to reach the spot, there were no proper fire escapes, and the exit from the roof was also blocked with the gate to the terrace being locked. The people on higher floors perished for they were trapped with no way out. To add to the woes, the sky lifts, which were supposed to be used for the rescue operation, had been stored far away in Behala and Salt Lake, at that point of time and fire-brigade took one-and-a-half hours to reach the site resulting in more deaths. The building was old and proper maintenance for electrical lines had also not been done.


This fire disaster occurred on January 23, 2004 in the Padmapriya Marriage Hall in Srirangam. A short circuit in the electric wire connecting the video camera resulted in the thatched roof of that hall catching fire, resulting in the death of 57 people attending the wedding, including the groom. Temporary power lines to the unauthorized makeshift arrangements that were the major reasons of that fire incident. No prompt escape/evacuation was made possible there.


In Krishna school building fire accidents,94 school children lost their lives in a fire that occurred in a school at Kumbakonam in Thanjavur District of Tamil Naduon July 16, 2004. The fire occurred in a building where a nursery, a primary and a high school were running amidst other residential properties. Lack of open space, with closely located classrooms, a very small exit gate, and make shift thatched roofs and lack of ventilation were some of the reasons for such a high casualty rate. With 900 students on roll call in a very small place, and no disaster management plans, the rescue mission was immensely difficult and 94 innocent lives were lost in this tragedy.

The building plan explains the different room positions and the accommodations, door and stair case location. It explains where the fire started, speeded, the way it was blocked the routes and arrest the movement of the children and caused the lives losses.

Ignition source: Spark from midday meal kitchen’s open stove.

Kitchen location: The midday meal kitchen, cycle parking is at the ground floor and the only one stair case is also located nearer to the kitchen. The first floor and the second floor accommodated with class room for the primary school students. The class rooms are separated by thatched material.The second floor pitched roof is also covered with thatched material and is continued to cover the kitchen top in the same level.

Occurrence of fire spread: Fire Started from midday meals kitchen stove through bamboo pole support to thatched roof and reached upper level of the class rooms rapidly.

Fire feeding materials: Thatched roof, bamboo with coconut coir support, wooden chair table, books, & cloths allowed the rapid fire spreading.

Reasons for large lives losses: The fired thatched roof, class room partition thatched materials with supporting bamboo support fell on the school children and blocked their movement, the smoke and consequent scramble blocked the exit routes and the stair case. The children could not make their way out, lot of suffocation children could not breathe out, within few minutes the blaze engulfed the entire floor area. The wooden materials, the note books/papers, and dress materials – all being vegetable fiber origin – play the important role for making the fire as a rapid & high intensified one.

Failure aspects: Provision of minimum requirements of firefighting appurtenances, water facility, preparedness, knowledge about fire, the passive provision of site set back, escape routes, and disaster management by the staff.

Solution for improvement:The building shape is long and linear the school capacity is 900 + staffs. If the buildings might have been provided with another one stair case with adequate number of doors all the children might have been escaped from the building.

If the roofs and the class room partitions are constructed with non-combustibles materials with permanent construction the children might not have been arrested in side of the floor and made their way out quickly without any obstruction. Non-combustible materials will have the property that, it will not produce smoke and fumes during fire.

NUMBER OF DOORS NEEDED (AS PER THE DESIGN OF THE HALL): The number door needed for any building will follow this formula: U= N / (40 x T) Where N = number of persons (Floor area / density factor), T = Time factor in minutes, U = Number of units required, Number of exits = (U / 4) + 1 (Considering the rate of flow for evacuation should be 40 persons per minutes for door width).


It happened on 28 February 2010 at Bangalore in the state ofKarnataka. This incident involved 12 losses of lives.

Ignition sources: The fire was started from basement of the building by an electric short circuit.

Fires spread: From basement floor to top floors reached rapidly.

Fire feeding materials: Through the wiring and the electrical fixtures, computers and other furniture materials.

Passive and active measures: Both passive and active provisions are provided properly, but Escape routes are blocked by waste materials, the firefighting appurtenances are not in working condition.

Reasons for lives losses: Three people jumped from the higher floors. Nine people lost their lives due to breathing problem, arising out of huge generation of smoke with toxic substances while inhaling the same.

Failure aspects: The firefighting appurtenances are not working, blocking of escape routes and evacuation procedure was not prompt.

Solution in such situation:If fire-retardant material was used in wiring, computers, partitions and other furniture might have avoided the fire ignition. Or if the wiring had replaced by fire resistant wires, even though fire was ignited by short circuit the high fire spread, smoke and the toxic substance might have been avoided.

Reasons for Loss of Lives:Blocking of escape routes by the waste materials, closing of fire escape routes and jumping of the staffs from the building failure of precaution for breathing problem`s patients, the causes of lives losses, failure of workingcondition of fire-fighting appurtenances shows that lack offire-fighting knowledge and evacuation procedure.


Accident took place on 2ndSeptember 2008at Chennai, State: Tamil Nadu where 6 people died in this incident.

Ignition of fire: Welding work conducted given the rise of fire during mid-night in the top most floors.

Fire spread: It is a commercial shop having all type of combustible materials are stored in all floors, due to scattering of material continuation fire speeded in all floors.

Fire feeding materials: Paper records, all plastic materials, computer components, wooden furniture, old loose wiring, all electrical kitchen appliances in that floor.

Reason for lives losses: Dumping of combustible materials, heavy fire, thick smoke with toxic substances experienced, being night time all doors were locked out side both top and main entry. No possibility of escaping from the building to outside by the night shift staffs.

Failure aspects observed: Provision of Minimum requirements fire-fighting appurtenances, design of building with escape routes, site set back and approach road to the building being blocked.

Problems created by:Structural alteration required according to the commercial requirements for this building’s occupants, lack of provision of escape routes in side of the building. The minimum requirements of fire-fighting appurtenances were not available in the building at the appropriate locations.


It’s perhaps the worst in the entire history of fire disasters in India. A fire broke out in a pandal (temporary structure built of bamboo like our puja pandals) in MandiDabwali on December 24, 1995, and the whole burning structure collapsed over the people attending the annual D.A.V. School function. 300 people, mostly school children, were killed and 100 were injured in the fire with 70-80 with severe burns. The venue of the function was just a four-wall structure with only one exit through a small gate. The fire occurred due to a short circuit in the electric supply connection line and having spread very quickly through the highly combustible structural materials.


On 24 May 2019, a fire occurred at a coaching center (commercial complex) in Sarthana area of Surat in the Gujarat state of India Twenty-two students died and others were injured in an academic coaching center Owner of the Institute, Builder and two officials from Gujarat Fire Safety Department (Fire service Gujarat) were arrested.

The way this fire incident started –Fire Started with Short Circuit at the Ground Floor. Then Fire Spread to other floors and went up to the Coaching Centre which was at the Terrace.

List of Lapses and observations/learning from this Surat fire Incident:

Lapses in Surat fire incidentObservations& learning
The spread of Fire from Ground Floor to Terrace.Lack of Passive Fire Protection. Passive Fire Protection will stop the spread of fire and smoke.
Flammable materials are hugely used like flushes and tires as the seat.Interior coatings, internal walls, etc. are spreading the fire very fast. Fire Load Must be calculated and checked on regular intervals.
Fire Tender was 45 minutes away and Hydraulic ladder reached in 45 minutesAt least 2 hours of fire-fighting capacity must be available with every commercial and industrial building.
Ceiling Height was just 5 feet.National Building Code 2016 must be followed for fire safety compliance.
16 students died due to asphyxiation (from smoke)Smoke is more dangerous than fire. Smoke Extraction System, Windows and Maintaining Air Changes per Hour is critical
Makeshift Dome was the build on the terrace where the actual tragedy happenedStructure, Wall, Floor, and Roof shall be as per National Building Code-2016 which guides on fire rating of each.
Short Circuit happened on Air Conditioning CircuitContinuous running loads will have a fire hazard. Thermography and electrical audits will help the building occupants to improve every time.
3 persons died as they jumped off the terrace of the building.Inadequate exit, staircase could have been the reason. Based on each floor occupantload, travel distance, number of exits must be provided being calculated in a scientific manner rather than having one or two staircases.
No Safety Equipment in the buildingThe requirement of Safety Equipment and Training & Awareness on how to use might have been saved many lives.
Heavy traffic and people taking videos at the incident siteIf not able to extend support, others should not hamper the rescue team.
Two floors were built without permissionAdherence to statutory norms will not only safe the occupants from their legal battles, but it is also required for Personnel and Property Safety. In the end, it has business/commercial benefits.
There was no audit conducted for the building.All high rise buildings and industrial complexes must conduct the third-party audit every two years.
Wooden Staircase used.Choice of the material of construction and its thickness matters.
Another Staircase was lockedMaintaining the equipment/facility “ready to use” is very critical which over a period of time clients ignore.
The illegal structure was regularized by the authorities by accepting the impact fee.Having NOC or getting the permission to operate does not mean Premises is Safe or fool-proof.
Officials concerned did not conduct a physical inspection of the building before approving the proposal of the builder.There are loopholes in the system and lack of safety awareness among official sometime
Client declaration was invariably false and Engineer Approval was absolutelywrong.In haste of getting approval, deviations and false reporting will be costly to the client and it will be an issue of integrity for concern stakeholders who support the client on wrong grounds.
A couple of month’s back similar incident happens in the same area in tuition center where two people died.Learning from a previous or similar incident is very important to improve the safety standards of each premise.
Fire Tender did not bring the safety net which could have saved a few more lives.The emergency Team must equip with the right equipment, items, and tools. Based on the incident it shall be mobilized.

Thesetenfire case-studies described abovehappened in various parts of India. Most of them caused major lives losses which are considered as pathetic and cruel accidents in India. Here, the Analyzing factors are: Building plan, set back, floors’ accommodation, ventilation, circulation, construction materials, ignition, fire feeding materials, reasons for fire spread, reasons for lives losses, failure aspects in terms of fire safety requirements and some other factors also.

All the above fire case studies indicate the failure aspects of passive& activeprovisionsas stipulated by National Building Code 2016 (Volume 1 & 2), ISI Codes for practice and reactive procedure are almost common. Therefore, the passive and active recommendations should be referred for the buildings to avoid such accidents in future. We shall cover the details in our next issue.

Passive Provisions: Here, ‘PASSIVE’ means it is building plan and design oriented. Any deficiency in the planning and at the design stage will definitely affect the architecture and the construction value of the building during fire. If the type of construction and the using construction materials are proper, the building itself or by virtue of its design with construction materials will react& resist with the fire propagation in such a way that it will not allow to spreading of fire flames and its other fire products of heat, smoke toxic substances and fumes from the origination point to adjacent room or other floors or to the other adjacent buildings. At the same time the building having the ability to reduce the size or volume of the fire and its products should always be the preferred risk to the fire underwriters under their portfolios.

The basic elements for consideration are: Fire door, fire resistant wall, fire damper/ fire seals, segregation of hazardous areas from non-hazardous ones by fire proof / resistant doors & walls, compartmentalization by wall, means of exits, travel distance, self-glowing exists on exit path and signage systems.


1.Accessibility and reaching the fire seat immediately;

2.Immediate containing the spread of fire;

3. To give insulation effects against the fire, resistance to heat penetration;

4. To provide sufficient number of stairs for exits;

5. To enhance the integrity and stability of the building at the time of construction;

6. To provide protected means of escape from the building;

7. To maximize time of safety – considering the actual time requiring for evacuation.

Basic Components -Building access:Approach road to the building premises, its main entrance gate and its width. Open space around the building to use emergency vehicles such as special ladder and rescue vehicles.

Building material selection and construction: Use of non-combustible materials, fire resistant treatment by coating or dipping and use less smoke emitting materials.

Building design: To be well ventilated, with provision of explosion vents, designing and dividing big floor area in to small area by providing effective fire barriers walls, so that fire may be contained in the place of origin, which is known as compartmentalization by walls, providing enough exits for easy evacuation and natural smoke ventilation provisions.

Building construction fire rating: Using of materials for construction should havethe fire rating of minimum from two hours to maximum four hours.

Building maintenance: Building should be maintained with good working condition of fire-fighting equipment’s, liberal space provision of life safety requirements and integration of passive safety measure with automatic active fires safety measures.

Means of Egress or Escape routes: The escapes routes are to be constructed by high fire resisting materials.

Minimum thirty minutes safety time for evacuation:Required for quick easy evacuation during fire, low temperature ignition materials, quick fire spread materials, interior decorative materials are not allowed in the escape routes.Adequate number of doors and corridors are to be provided for that purpose; all the rooms are to be connected with corridor and all the floors to be connected with stair cases. Head room height minimum should be of 2.4 meters.

Ramp ratio should be of 1:8connected with corridor for physically challenged, children and elderly people:Two stair cases are to be provided oneshould be in side and the other one should be facing outside ofthe buildings. The maximum travel distance from inside ofthe building to outside should be 30 meters. The total area of the building is to be sub divided. Safetypoints or refuge points are to be provided at the appropriateplaces. Proper illumination level, signage needs to be provided.All this will help for quick evacuation for safeguard many lives.


‘ACTIVE’ means the existing pro-active arrangements for fire-fighting to deal with large sized fires – even for the fires at great heights in case of high rise buildings when concerned. These are the external components eithertemporary or permanently attached with the building and are activated by external sources of energy at the time of fire in the building. The elements include portable fire extinguishers, fixed first aid fire-fighting equipment’s like hose reels, fire hydrant installation like dry / wet risers and yard for hydrants’ installation, manual/automatic fire detectors and alarm systems, fixed automatic fire fighting systems, water sprinklers and emulsifiers systems, CO2 fire-fighting systems, mobile fire-fighting systems, nearby public fire brigades and mutual aid systems.


1. To provide immediate detection of fire and give loud alarm of fire on its occurrence;

2. To provide immediate suppression effect on fire either automatically or manually on its notice;

3.To prevent fire spreading as well to extinguish the fire at its incipient stage, whenever possible;

4.To reduce the destruction and loss due to fire by its containment;

5.To reduce the generation of smoke, fumes from the out-breakof the fire;

6. To minimize time of hazard time required for reaching the maximum level of fire hazard.

Components to consider:

First-aid extinguishers: To deal with initial stage of fire – to be provided to cover all vulnerable area of the building.

Hose-reel assembly system: To deal with small fires to minimize water damage & it should be provided in all floors.

Down comer/wet riser system: To deal with fire with plenty of water &water-storage to be provided with all floors.

Automatic fire detection and fire alarm systems: To detect heat, smoke, fumes and flames appropriate detectors are to be installed in all appropriate points in all floors of the building.

Automatic water/ water moist or water foam sprinklers system/ gas suppression system: For automatic suppression of fire followed/ simultaneously by automatic detection of fire and to be installed in floors on specific advice of suitability and applicability.

Public address system: To give specific instructions/information of the occupants, in responding to an emergency.To be provided at all floors with a facility to address either all floors or selective floors of refuge area at a time

Automatic smoke vents: This mechanism should be provided especially for basements and enclosed part of the building.

Emergency lights, evacuation plan, mock drill and training are vital elements of life safety requirements

Integrated buildings management: It is a modern feature to control the building by Appling various safer electrical system, which is an essential requirement for the multistoried buildings.

Moreover,human preparedness with a plan will see a more efficient rescue operation in case of fire incidents, some of the steps that may be fruitful are given as below:

  1. The maximum occupancy limit of a building should not be exceeded.
  2. In case of temporary structure erected to host a function, an exclusive fire brigade and an ambulance should be on the stand by for any emergency situation.
  3. The occupants should be aware of the regulations and well advised to do the needful in case of fire.
  4. The occupants should have a clear picture of the exit routes available and the location of fire extinguishers.
  5. The fire extinguishers should be regularly maintained, and easily accessiblein case of requirements.
  6. In case the building has hazardous materials, those should be stored properly as per the norms and regulations laid for storage of the substance.


The technical interpretation of fire safety of buildings is to convey the fire resistance of buildings in terms of hours when subjected to a fire of known intensity. The fire grading of the building itself enables the correct amount of storage and class of materials, or appropriate ‘fire load’ to be apportioned for that particular application.

Loss of life in fires is mainly due to smoke and hot gases being inhaled by occupants before actual flames have developed to a serious degree within the room concerned. Smoke and hot gases spread through doorways and ventilators which are normally impossible to keep closed. The essential requirements for fire safety in so far as materials and details of construction are concerned, are that the flame smoke and hot gases shall not spread so rapidly as to give the occupants insufficient time to escape.

In order to reduce spread of fire, it is necessary that:

a) The fire shall not spread rapidly from one room to another through the floors, partitions between rooms, and particularly between rooms and passages and staircases, that is, the structural elements shall have adequate fire resistance; and

b) The materials which are exposed to possible ignition, that is, wall and ceiling linings shall not easily ignite, nor shall the fire spread rapidly over the surface of the materials.

Fire safety in Buildings:

To have fire proof Building the following structural components should be highly fire resistant –

  1. LOAD BEARING WALL: The load bearing walls are vital component of any building along with the foundation. These walls are liable for moving vertical loads from slabs to other suitable structural members &ultimately impact on the foundation.  Therefore, the walls should have a specific thickness to resist the effects of fire. They should be wider in section to serve as fire barrier for a notable time. The extract of section can be acquired from IS 1642-2013 Code.


  1. The technical interpretation of fire safety of buildings is to convey the fire resistance of buildings in terms of hours when subjected to a fire of known intensity. The fire grading of the building itself enables the correct amount of storage and class of materials, or appropriate ‘fire load’ to be apportioned for that particular application.
  2. Loss of life in fires is mainly due to smoke and hot gases being inhaled by occupants before actual flames have developed to a serious degree within the room concerned. Smoke and hot gases spread through doorways and ventilators which are normally impossible to keep closed. The essential requirements for fire safety in so far as materials and details of construction are concerned, are that the flame smoke and hot gases shall not spread so rapidly as to give the occupants insufficient time to escape.

3. In order to reduce spread of fire, it is necessary that:

a) The fire shall not spread rapidly from one room to another through the floors, partitions between rooms, and particularly between rooms and passages and staircases, that is, the structural elements shall have adequate fire resistance properties; and

b) The materials which are exposed to possible ignition, that is, wall and ceiling linings shall not easily ignite, nor shall the fire spread rapidly over the surface of the materialsof the building all the way to the roof. They are designed to remain standing even if the adjacent structure collapses. To do so, firewalls are built thicker than normal walls with significant structural stability under fire conditions. Sometimes buttresses or pilasters may also be required in order to provide adequate lateral stability. Firewalls will typically have a 2 to 4-hour fire-resistance rating.

B. FIRE BARRIERS: They are interior walls that extend from the floor‐to‐floor or floor‐to‐roof, including concealed and interstitial spaces. They are designed to sub‐divide portions of the building, and can be supported by structures, such as roofs, columns or floors. All support structures should have the fire-resistant rating no less than that of the fire barrier they support. Fire barriers restrict the initial flow of heat within the area of origin, which provides building occupants with adequate time to evacuate to safe areas. These walls will typically have a 2 to 3‐hour fire‐resistance rating.

So what is the difference between firewalls and fire barriers?  Basically, firewalls are thick exterior walls with a higher fire- resistance rating, while fire barriers are interior walls with a lower fire-resistance rating. Both structures are important to the building’s fire protection system as they are designed to help contain the fire to one location as well as allowing occupants to evacuate safely.

C. FLOORING:The flooring materials are usually prepared from fire bricks, concrete stone, tiles etc. as they are regarded as fire resistant construction. However if the usage of such material are not feasible, wooden flooring that are more exposed to fire ought to be used. For wooden floor, thicker joints should be set at a more significant distance apart. Alternatively, protective covering of insulators can be used over the flooring.

D. PARTITION WALL: Usually Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC), Reinforced Brick Concrete (RBC), asbestos, pre-stressed or hollow concrete, etc.areemployedfor building the fire resistant partitionwall. However, when wooden partition walls areconstructed, they need to be shielded with metal lath& plaster.

E. CELIING:Asbestoscement board, metal lath, plaster etc. are generally employed in the ceiling framework to maintain fire resistant structure. Also the ceiling & floor joists must be instantly connected to greater stability & strength.

F. DOORS: The doors work as exit routes during fire emergency& therefore assuring their integrity at the timeof construction is very essential.They must be glazed & fitted with reinforced glass panelsasthey have higher thermal resistance from normal glass panel. Utilizing metal frame for doors will provide extra fire safety to doors.

G.STAIRS: For one storey or two building windows & doors can provide sufficient escape points in the event of Fire. But for tall buildings, the location of stairs is important. It should be equally available from various end points of the floor. As far as the material of construction is concerned, it is advisable to employ RCC material for construction of stairs.Also partition wall made up of fire resistant material should beconsidered around the stair case hall for further protection.

H. ROOFS:A flat roof is consistently better from the fire safety point of view. This is because fire spreads more rapidly on sloped surface in case of adverse wind circumstances.However, if making of sloped roof is needed, then, ceiling should be builton coated with fire resistant material.

I. FRAME STRUCTURES:If framed structure, it should be made of reinforced concrete&/or steel structure. Steel structures commonly manage to reduce thedamageunder serious fire [Steel melts at 1400oC], provided they have shielding layer of metal lath or plaster. Brickconcretes or tiles may also be used &their dimension of thickness should be of bare minimum of 100mm.

J. WINDOWS:As the windows are made of glass, wood, steel& other types of material as they can catch fire easily. So to avoid these issues extra attention should be given. The window can be used as Emergency Exit during fire. Thus material used should be fire resistant and the wire-messed glasses to be used in it.

K. REFUGE AREAThe refuge area should be provided on the periphery of the floor or preferably on acantilever projection to air. For floors above 24 m up to 39 m one refuge point immediately above 24 meter. For floor above 39 meters, refuge point after every 15 meter. The provision of escape lighting from an independent source for illumination is mentioned in section 4.17 of NBC. Similarly fire detection & warning system provision is given in section 4.18 of NBC.


Super high-rise buildings are booming in the recent decade of years in the world, which bring challenges to fire protection considering the high building density, high occupant load and high fire load. The tallest buildings in Indian cities, respectively:

  1. Mumbai: Palais Royale
  2. Kolkata: The 42
  3. Noida: Supernova Spira
  4. Gurugram: Raheja Revanta
  5. Lucknow: Prestigia Tower
  6. Hyderabad: Lodha Bellezza
  7. Chennai: SPR City
  8. Pune: Amanora Gateway Towers
  9. Navi Mumbai: Mahajan’s Hospital
  10. Bengaluru: CNTC Presidential Tower

Mumbai has the highest number of skyscrapers and high-rise buildings in India; more than 200 skyscrapers and 5,600 nos. high-rise buildings currently exist in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. Delhi-NCR has also witnessed a massive construction boom in the last 20 years with around 18 skyscrapers and 5,200 high-rise buildings already constructed in the region. Kolkata has 14 existing skyscrapers and around 800 completed high-rise buildings. Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune, Ahmedabad and Surat also have numerous high-rise buildings.

Fire risk analysis of high-rise building is of critical importance due to the reason that there still lacks efficient systematical fire extinguish method to ensure a safety evacuation process. Super high-rise buildings are booming in the recent decade of years in the world, which bring challenges to fire protection considering the high building density, high occupant load and high fire load.

Good management of fire safety is essential to lower the probability of fire occurrence and to mitigate the consequence if a fire does occur. It is paramount important that occupants in the building are able to escape to a place of safety easily and quickly if a fire occurs and is out of control. The risk assessment is to identify the hazards, quantify the risk and propose measures to mitigate and control the risk. A fire risk assessment is an organized and methodical review of a specific building, the activities carried on there and the likelihood that a fire could start and cause harm to the occupants and properties in and around the premises. The aims of the fire risk assessment are to (1) identify the fire hazards, (2) reduce the risk as low as reasonably practicable, and (3) decide what physical fire precautions and management arrangements are necessary to ensure the safety of people in the premises if a fire does start, it can help the building manager to decide whether any risks identified are acceptable or need to reduce or control the risks.Firefighting at great height is a tough situation where the availability of water & people may be scared.

As per the National Building Code (NBC) every high-rise building or a skyscraper must have a dedicated refuge area at every seventh floor of the building. The first refuge area should be after the first 24 m (in height) and after that, every seventh floor.  A building’s terrace floor is also considered a refuge area. Whether it is a residential or commercial building, if it is a high-rise building, it must have a refuge area. According to NBC, buildings with nine floors and more are considered to be high-rise buildings. A refuge area in a high-rise building is designed to accommodate people in case of a fire or another emergency, especially when people are unable to leave the building. Evacuation is not possible sometimes. The residents or the occupants of the building can wait in it until help arrives.


In the building it is an emergency area to be used only when there is a fire outbreak or another such situation that doesn’t allow people to leave the building. Therefore, a clear passage must be constructed that leads to the refuge area. The passage must be well-lit. It should not be used publicly and should only be used in the case of an emergency.

It should not be an enclosed area. There shouldn’t be high walls around the refuge area, although it can have a railing or a medium-height wall to stop people from falling off. In the time of emergency rescue services like the fire brigade ladder should be able to access to it without any obstruction.The residents of the building (or the designated authority responsible for the upkeep of the building) must ensure that the door to it must never be locked. There should be no obstructions on the way to the refuge area. It should be immediately accessible in case of an emergency.It must not be used for any other purpose whether permanently or temporarily. For example, people living near the refuge area, should not use the place for storage, cooking or recreation purposes.

Can there be alternative refuge areas?

It depends on the height of the building. If the building has more than 24 floors an alternative refuge area needs be provided. It must be ensured that the alternative area is built in the form of reinforced concrete cantilever projection at the alternate mid-landing level of the staircase. The minimum width must be 3 meters. For commercial high-rise buildings, the minimum area for the alternative refuge area must be 15 square meters and for residential buildings, it must be at least 10 square meters. There must be a clear passage leading to it and signs must be put up, preferably painted in luminous paint. It is a temporary shelter so the main staircase or the main lift shouldn’t open towards the refuge area. It is to be used only for emergencies. In high-rise buildings up to 30 meters, the terrace floor of the building can be considered a refuge area. It is mandatory to have a fire check floor in a building that is more than 70 meters. Such a refuge area covers an entire floor every 70 meters. But the height of the fire check floor shouldn’t exceed 1.8 meters to curb misuse. It is the responsibility of the occupants/owners to ensure that the area is used only for the purpose of refuge and nothing else.

L. FLOOR SPACE INDEX AND REFUGE AREA: According to the National building code refuge area must be limited to a maximum of 4% of the total liveable area. This portion is excluded from Floor Space Index (FSI – the ratio of permissible built-up area). If the refuge area is more than 4%, then the exceeding amount is added to the total liveable area.

CHECK FOR A REFUGE AREA IN THE BUILDING BEFORE BUYING AN APARTMENT:Due to lack of awareness people looking to buy an apartment or a flat in a high-rise building, rarely look for a refuge area – they are not even aware of the concept.It is an important safety feature. You may not have to use it your entire life while living in your apartment, or you may have to use it in case of an emergency. Most of the approved buildings have it. But just in case you cannot locate it while considering a high-rise building, ask around and make sure that it has designated refuge areas at recommended heights.


The code deals with safety from fire. It specifies demarcation of fire zone, restrictions to construction of buildingin each fire zone according to fire resistance of structural &nonstructural component &requirements necessary to minimize damages to life, smoke, fumes orpanic beforebuilding can be evacuated.

Life safety- covers life safety provision in the event of fire & similar emergency also addressing construction & occupancy feature necessary to minimize damage to life from fire, smoke fumes & panic.


The very first stage in fire-resistant construction is to lower the use of combustible materials. Few Indian Standard (IS) codes deliver the guidelines for safety protocols and the usage of fire-resistant materials at construction sites. IS code dealing with design consideration are 1644-188, 1644-1982 & 3809-1979.


  1. National building code deals with life safety in chapter 4 of volume number two in section 4 covering aspects on life safety from 4.1 to 4.18 with subsections in few cases.  It covers provisions on Fire protection in section 5 (from 5.1 to 5.3) with various subsections. It is advisable to rely on TAC Fire Protection Manual which is very exhaustive & drawn as per NFPA guidelines. It gives details of specification capacities based on nature of hazards, number of such Fixed Appliances’ protraction required, distance of spacing of hydrant points etc.
  2. For building with height more than 30 m have been stipulated in NBC under Annexure C 6. Under C7, housekeeping standards are provided. Similarly fire order & fire drill matters arestipulated under C8. Provision C9 deals with compartmentalization.  In C10 – depicts the provision of making a helipad at the top for high-rise buildings having above 60 meter. Mr.MukeshAmbani’s house in Mumbai has a helipad as it is more than 60 meters height.
  3. For smoke management Annexure D of Part 4 has stipulated requirements for venting in industrial Building [including hotel/ hospitals/ commercial complexes]. There is provision of venting of explosion risks & these are dealt in sections D2 & D3 respectively.
  4. The guideline for fire drill & evacuation procedure in high-rise building [i.e., for buildings above 15 meters height] has been provided in ANNEXURE E under Sections E1 & E8.  However all hotels & hospitals below15 meter height should follow these guidelines.           .
  5. The code recognizes that there is undue danger in a constructed building from life & safety of the occupants from fire, smoke, fumes or panic during the time necessary to escape. The code specifies that Exit route for escape is door, corridor, and passageway or junction point of all passages internal & external staircase but not LIFT OR ESCALATOR.
  6. The number of Exit doors should be dependent upon area in sq. m/number of persons in the floor known as Occupant load. For this purpose the code has classified buildings into Residential A, Educational B, Institutional C, Assembly D, Business E, Mercantile F, Industrial G, Storage H & hazardous J. The occupant load has been fixed as parameter between 3 to 30. For Business & Industrial its 10 & for Residential it is 12.5.
  7. It is expected that in case of any Fire Emergency, for a building of height less than 15 meters, all occupants in a floor must evacuate within 2.5 minutes.
  8. Further no exit door shall be less than 1000 mm (3.28 ft) width. For all types of buildings 15 meter in height & above having an area more than 500 sq. m each floor must have two exits. Every exit must open into an unenclosed stairway or horizontal exit of acorridor or passage way.
  9. The maximum height of the water hydrant riser shall be 190 mm for residential building & 150 mm for others & numbers should be limited to 15 m/flight.
  10. Pressurization is a method adopted for protected escape route against ingress of smoke especially in High rise building.In pressurization air is injected into the stair, lobbies or corridor to raise the pressure slightly above the adjacent parts of the building. As a result, ingress of smoke or toxic gases into escape route will be prevented. The Pressurization of stairs may be adopted for high-rise buildings having mixed occupancy/ multiplexes with covered area of more than 500 sq. meters.
  11. Main objective of ‘exit provision’ – It is for Life Safety. The construction should be such that there is no undue danger to life & safety of occupants by fire smokefumes or panic during the period of escape.

‘Exit provision’ contains the following Sections dealing with –

4.1 gives modalities

4.2 states general requirements

4.3 regarding occupant  load,

4.4 capacities of exit,

4.5 arrangements of exit &  number

4.6 number of exits.

  1. Venting: Venting shall be accomplished by any of the types such as ‘monitors continuous gravity vent, until type vent or saw tooth roof sky lights type.Where monitor type vent is used, wired glass or metal panelsshall only be used. The panels should be hinged at the bottom& designed to open automatically. Where movable shutters are provided for continuous gravity vents, these shall be open automatically in the event of fire. Until type vents range from 1sq. meter to 9 sq. meter having light weight metal frames & housing with hinged dampers. Baffles should not be installed inside the vent.The vents should be automatically in operation. This is achieved by actuation of fusible links. Automatic fire alarms should be connected to the system.

13. Fire-retardant materials to be used in buildings basically are:-

  1. Iron
  2. Mineral wool 
  3. Gypsum boards 
  4. Asbestos cement 
  5. Partite boards
  6. Calcium silicate
  7. Sodium silicate


To avoid the fire accidents in buildings, the passive way of safety design, life safety provisions and the active way of fixing fire-fighting appurtenances in the building cannot even assure full safety. Number of variables is responsible in the fire phenomenon of the buildings, which are to be identified, assessed as fire hazard. Type of building, the activities going inside of the building, culture of the society, behaviour of the people, maintenance of the building, application of good housekeeping, fire risk management, security management, preparedness during the contingency situation, awareness of fire, keeping away the fire sources from the combustible materials, reduction or elimination of combustible materials,using fire retardant materials, fire proof coated materials or using of impregnated manufactured materials inside the premises are few fire safety parameters, if we adopt these parameters in the buildings, we can avoid the fire accidents and assure the absolute safety of the buildings in future. It will also definitely give ease & peace to the fire underwriters to accept & underwrite such good fire proposals having these positive features as discussed till now – under the coverage of their Standard Fire & Special Perils (SFSP) Policy.

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