While fire safety standards are mandatory for any building above two floors high, high-rise buildings, especially residential complexes, pose a different set of problems to designers as well as the enforcing agencies. This is mainly because of the longer time needed to evacuate the building in case of an emergency.
A high-rise is defined as any building above 15 m or four floors in height or whichever is more. All high-rises are required to provide fire protection arrangements. These include a fire escape, fire pump and storage tank at the ground level, lift, lightning protection device, fire alarm, extinguishers, etc.
The biggest single threat is posed by electrical short-circuits in high-rises, caused mainly by overloading and use of substandard cables and casings. The Electrical Inspectorate in the State capital is charged with the task of ensuring that the wiring system, electrical load and the quality of the material used conform to safety standards.
There is a need for a system of architect-level coordination with the Inspectorate so that standards can be improved at the design stage itself. The problem is that people are not ready to spend too much money on ensuring electrical safety, whether it is in the matter of design or quality of the material used.
Cheap flexible polythene pipes are being widely used for conduit wiring in houses and other buildings. These pipes tend to dissolve over time and the live wires come into contact with concrete walls, causing leaks and fires.
Lightning protection, both external and internal, has a lot to deal with the building design, and various methods are prescribed by authorities. While the external system is for protecting the structure, the internal one is for protecting sensitive equipment inside the building. Faulty lightning protection and incorrect routing of the lightning conductor can lead to a phenomenon called side-flashing.
Public knowledge about electrical safety continues to be low and official efforts at creating awareness have largely gone unnoticed. Inspectorate officials point out that the absence of qualified persons to operate the electrical system and take care of its maintenance in most high-rises is a matter of concern.
With the recent revamping of the National Building Code fire protection arrangements are needed in certain categories of buildings even when they are only double-storeyed. The Code lays stress on passive fire protection measures such as fire assistance and fire rating of materials used for construction. Another important point is that authorities can conduct periodic inspection of the building, preferably after three or five years of completion, and monitor the safety standards and upkeep of the fire fighting equipment.
Only dry-type transformer of approved make should be installed. Transformer and generator should be installed at the periphery of the building, with easy access and ventilation. Floor-wise isolation facility should be provided.
Cable should be taken to different floors only through cable ducts, with access to the duct from all floors. Fire barriers should be provided in the duct at floor-crossings. No other service pipes should be taken through the electrical duct. Emergency supply isolation facility should be provided in a conspicuous place at the ground.
In the case of high-rises where ground floor shops are owned by a number of consumers, two transformers.