Fire safety audit of hotels

Was it really not been done earlier in Jammu and Kashmir is unbelievable. In fact, fighting fires and having a foolproof mechanism in readiness should be an important aspect of the terms and conditions of running a hotel. Can unsafe practices to fight fires afforded to be kept covered and hidden without imperilling the lives of the occupant ‘guests’ and the staff working in hotels, is a pertinent question. Fire Safety Officers , perhaps, are mandated to conduct surprise audits and inspections of the safety norms, the equipment in working order and allied matters in all public places especially where people converge, stay or visit like in hotels, hospitals, lodges, restaurants, cinema halls, marriage and banquet halls, shopping malls and the like.
There are heart rending instances where fire safety norms were compromised but not without paying a heavy and precious price. Uphar cinema in South Delhi’s posh area turned into a burning pyre on February 13, 1997 as a result of a ravaging fire that perished 59 people and nearly 100 sustained burn injuries, some of them grievously. The employees manning the hall were never witness to any drills or briefs as to how emergencies like outbreak of fire had to be dealt with as they had locked the exit gates from outside and had that been not so, perhaps more people would have not died due to asphyxiation. We have other tragic instances just on finger tips to recall the horrors of blazes in public places across many areas in the country. With this prelude , the issue of very frequent fire safety audits of hotels and other public places in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir assume more significance .
In this connexion, the decision of the Lt. Governor G .C. Murmu to order for a Fire Safety Audit (FSA) of all the hotels across Jammu and Kashmir is appreciated. In fact, another audit should be conducted as to how many times each of such hotels were subjected to safety audits and if not, the reasons thereof must be ascertained. When building plans are passed by competent authorities, the safety measures in moments of emergencies like the one under reference, are mandated to be assessed and their compliance ensured followed up by surprise and frequent audits which must include identifying various levels of risk in the entire area, identifying strengths and weaknesses of safety procedures, whether safety procedures were legally compliant, the levels of trainings and handling of emergencies by the staff and the like concerning safety and security.
It is not that only during winters such a preparedness was required to be there but throughout all seasons, safety measures and precautions must be strictly enforced. We cannot discount the possibility that under the previous system of governance, perhaps, such audits were optional and not mandatory or conducted just for formalities but outside Jammu and Kashmir, such safety audits are being conducted meticulously and frequently and reports monitored. The purpose of such audits is primarily to know the areas of weaknesses and lapses which if corrected within the shortest timeframe would solve the intrinsic purpose of such safety audits.
It is a positive step in right direction to organise training for the hotel staff from the first week of December 2019 to acquaint them with various aspects of fire prevention, protection and safety. Conducting surprise mock drills will enable the concerned authorities to know the levels of preparedness and alertness by the members on the staff of such hotels. It is in the fitness of things to involve personnel from other departments as well in addition to J&K Fire and Emergency Services but the teams should have more members having expertise and professional knowledge about the subject.