For a 'Fire Safe' India  

A fire can occur anywhere. If not handled carefully, it can lead to a huge loss of life and assets. In fact, with rapid economic development, emerging technologies, shortage of prime land and lifestyle changes, fire risk continues to be one of the major causes of loss of human lives in the country. As recently as May this year, at least 22 students lost their lives and many others were injured when a fire broke out at a commercial complex in Surat, Gujarat. This incident highlighted the urgent need to improve fire safety preparedness in the country.

Globally, the very recent devastating forest fire in the Amazon basin eroded huge tracts of rain forests and arrested the world's attention. Global warming and Climate Change have increased the frequency and intensity of forest fires and they are a cause of concern in India as well. 

While India has an institutional mechanism in place, both at the Central and State levels, and has taken various measures to reduce the country's fire risk, fire accidents indicate certain gaps that need to be addressed. National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), therefore, chose 'Fire Safety' as the theme for its 15th Formation Day.

Inaugurating the celebrations, Hon'ble Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Shri G. Kishan Reddy, stressed upon learning from past incidents and adopting international best practices for fire risk prevention and mitigation. He also emphasized on capacity building of government functionaries, awareness generation among people through mock drills and the need for enforcing rules and regulations.

During the day-long event, three technical sessions were held covering the various aspects of fire risks and safety. The first session 'Fire Risk in India' focused on emerging issues on Fire Safety Management in the country. The session also saw presentations on issues pertaining to Forest Fires and their linkages with global warming and climate change.  Various aspects of Industrial Fires were also discussed. The second session held discussions on various measures that could be taken to prevent and mitigate fire related events, especially in urban areas.

During the session on 'Institutional Challenges and Issues', aspects related to the need for modernization and technological upgradation of Fire Services in the country, vis-à-vis the rapid developmental growth, were discussed.

"Fire preparedness requires all relevant stakeholders - from the national right up to the local and community level - to come together," said Dr. P. K. Mishra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister. He added that those in charge of enforcing regulations should be trained on legal and technical provisions, fire types, associated risks, fire prevention, mitigation and response mechanisms besides incorporating the latest technology and equipment for fire prevention, mitigation and response.

Shri G. V. V. Sarma, Member Secretary, NDMA, highlighted the activities undertaken by NDMA during the last one year to reduce disaster risks in the country and consolidate India's efforts towards regional and international collaboration for DRR. Shri Sarma also underlined the need for a conscious and planned effort by all the states for improving our firefighting capabilities.

On the occasion, a number of National guidelines and reports prepared by NDMA for disaster risk reduction in the country were also released, which included the National Guidelines on Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction. Other publications that were issued include Home Owner’s Guide for Earthquake and Cyclone Safe Homes, National Landslide Risk Management Strategy, Temporary Shelters for Disaster Affected Houses, PocketBook on Do’s and Don’ts, Study Report on Gaja Cyclone 2018, Heat Wave Threshold Estimation Study and Earthquake Disaster Risk Index.

To be effective, fire risk reduction needs to strengthen institutional mechanisms, involve the communities at risk, generate public awareness, and ensure there is a constant state of preparedness. Discussions at this Formation Day will go a long way in meeting challenges and reducing our socio-economic vulnerabilities to fire risk.

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