Massive breakdown in fire safety

Shopping mall blaze in Siberia kills 37
— Read on

With such a high death toll, it can only be concluded that the fire safety measures in place in the building at the time of the fire had failed massively. It is unfortunate that the fire started in the first place, but why weren’t the fire safety measures in place in the building at that time able to contain the effects of the fire?

That  is indeed the objective of any fire safety measure. Buildings are compartmentalized to reduce fire spread. Building materials are chosen on the basis that they have either zero or near-to-zero flame spread characteristics. Fire-fighting aids such as fire-extinguishers and hose-reels are provided so that building occupants can help extinguish the fire while it is in its incipient stage. Buildings are provided with an automatic fire sprinkler so that fires can be extinguished just before they get any larger. Buildings are equipped with an automatic fire alarm system to spot fires and raise an alarm early so that the occupants can self-evacuate quickly.

If, despite these measures, the fire still manages to grow and spread, there are still the fire-fighters. The fire fighters will take time to arrive certainly, but if they are able to arrive early, they would at least be able to control the fire. It is for this reason that buildings are also equipped with specially dedicated features such as engine access, staircases, lifts and wet risers which allow the fire-fighters to come close to the building, gain access to the fire floor and to fight the fire using water from the wet risers.

The high death toll indicates that most of the fire safety measures have probably failed. It is timely to learn from this tragic episode.

INSPIRO Fire & Crisis Pte Ltd is a fire, emergency and crisis consultancy firm incorporated in Singapore.


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