THE fire that broke out at the Capital’s iconic shopping mall –Centaurus – on Sunday has raised many questions about safety of high rise buildings and arrangements made by their management to deal with any emergent situation.
The fire was luckily brought under control through a coordinated effort of rescue and fire-fighting teams from different departments and no human loss was reported.
However, the building has been sealed pending completion of the inquiry into the incident and assessment about structural strength of the twin towers.
Islamabad District Administration has done well by initiating a comprehensive inquiry to investigate the cause of the fire, whether fire-fighting equipment and alarms were working in the building or not and what actions were taken by the management.
The Deputy Commissioner has also issued instructions for other big buildings in the city to be checked for availability of fire-fighting equipment, failing which action should be taken against them.
One hopes this process would be taken to the logical conclusion and a minute survey would be conducted of all high rise and large buildings to assess the existing arrangements to prevent eruption of fire, availability of required fire-fighting equipment and structural capabilities of these buildings.
This is important because in 2002 the then tallest building of the Federal Capital – Shaheed-e-Millat Secretariat was completely gutted because of non-availability of fire-fighting equipment for high rise buildings.
It is also the responsibility of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to ensure that building by-laws are fully enforced and violators are taken to task.
Construction of high rise commercial and residential towers has become a necessity in view of growing needs of the rapidly increasing population but this should be done with necessary precautions and safety measures.
It has also been observed that tenants of these buildings do not follow safety procedures, putting the life of all the inmates at risk.
The management of all such buildings must be held accountable as usually they do not take appropriate steps for maintenance and safety of the buildings despite charging the tenants for the purpose.