Times are changing, technology, building standards, safety protocols, all striving to reach a new level of application and improvement, for the greater good of all the people of Pakistan. If you look around at the endless addition of numerous housing societies like DHA Defence and Cantt’s in Lahore and Islamabad on local real estate portals or listings, it’s easy to see that Pakistan is also no stranger to change. On the forefront of current building standards with the incorporation of buried utilities, earthquake proof structures, and cutting edge materials in these localities, and rightfully so, modern building standards state that each and every building should be constructed according to the current fire safety and escape measures. For years developed and developing countries have been employing firefighting strategies and preventative measures in the construction of their homes and commercial buildings, yet somehow these things are overlooked in Pakistan and have led to adverse consequences.
A few recent incidents that come to mind are, most notably, the deadly fire in Karachi’s garment factory in 2012 that killed more than 300 people and fatally injured around 600, and of course the LDA Plaza fire which left approximately 30 people trapped on its 7th floor. With such deadly incidents in the medialately, which destroy the lives of so many people and their families overnight, you’d think that the trend would be to mitigate this problem to prevent future catastrophe, yet there have been no major changes or updates in these now-outdated structures. Which is why, there is no better time than now for the government of Pakistan to take the initiative, andbegin the renovation, construction, and updatingof thesehazardous buildings.
The topic of “fire safety”, while commonly thought of as limited to building materials and their flammability, covers an entire spectrum of direct and indirect measures and includes preparation, prevention, and response-time to “fire situations”. For instance, “fire proofing” not only refers to the materials used, but also the containment strategies in the future event that a fire does take place, all of this done with the intention of trying to keep a fire from moving from one section of a building to another. In more devastating cases this also includes preventing the fire from spreading from one building to another, which can escalate something as simple as a small electrical fire in a kitchen into a multi-complex disaster. This is achieved through careful planning, construction, and incorporating materials that do not catch fire easily such as gypsum to heighten fire resistance and also segmentation within a building plan so that a fire can be contained quickly before taking lives.
Architects may also lend the greatest contribution during the planning processby implementing fire codes and helping to eliminate sources of ignition, centralizing the storage of flammable and combustible materials, and structuring a proper fire extinguishment system for the size of each room. Apart from this, buildings should have sufficient fire detection and evacuation precautions in place such as smoke sensors, heat sensors and infrared cameras, as well as properly designated and maintained fire exits and training regiments for employees. While these sophisticated measures are currently being applied in newly constructed houses andresidential localities such as DHA and Bahria Town, the end-goal and initiative is to update and incorporate them into all of the existing structures that fall short of the necessary safety requirements needed to offer a sufficient level of protection. Times are changing, and with Pakistan’s current momentum in the building sector, now is the time for a change, to protect you and your family well into the future.