Meeting fire safety guidelines is not just a matter of compliance but a critical business decision that can help save lives and businesses. Amit Wadhwa makes the case

A large fire at Hotel Arpit Palace in New Delhi in February this year killed 17 people. According to media reports, the primary investigation revealed that the hotel did not follow even the most basic fire safety norms – a rooftop bar was operating without any approval, and the emergency exits were inaccessible.

The deaths were mainly due to suffocation. Some lost their lives trying to jump out of the flame-engulfed building. In response, the authorities went around sealing hotels in the vicinity, and, for a while, discussions about fire safety took centre stage, but this was forgotten as the story moved out of the news cycle.

The Delhi hotel fire was not an isolated incident, and not the only one caused by people flouting basic safety norms. A fire in the Kolkata metro in December last year resulted in injuries to 42 passengers. A probe initiated by the Commission of Railway Safety and the Kolkata metro said that the metro had failed to meet fire safety norms.

In another instance, ESIC Kamgar Hospital in Mumbai, which saw a fire that killed eight people in December 2018, had flammable material stored on the ground floor and had failed a fire safety check in the same month.

Ignorance of fire safety rules can be seen not only in commercial and residential buildings, but even at big events where thousands of people gather. The 1995 Dabwali fire in Haryana where 540 people (mostly children) lost their lives in a banquet hall was one of the worst such incidents in Indian history. The focus at large events is often on the grandeur and lavishness of the sets, and not the safety of the attendees, and the evacuation plan.

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