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Commercial buildings: A month left to adopt fire safety standards in Islamabad

ISLAMABAD, June 24: Owners of commercial plazas and high-rise buildings have only a month to equip them with fire safety standards or face heavy fines and risk sealing by the Capital Development Authority (CDA).

“We will take strict action against violators of Building Standards for Fire Prevention and Life Safety 2010 and impose fines after July 26,” said CDA Chairman Imtiaz Inayat Elahi.

The authority is the first municipality to introduce and implement these standards in the capital to “prevent and mitigate effects of disasters and emergencies, especially in case of fire”.

Under the new standards, the authority now enjoys powers to vacate or seal buildings or impose fine up to Rs500,000 on violators after the deadline.

In the first phase, the authority`s Directorate of Building Control Service (BCS) has notified these standards for three categories II, III and IV of buildings.

The category-II includes two-storey buildings, industries and all other non-residential buildings, except the farm houses. Category-III is made of non-residential five-storey plus ground floor buildings and category-IV includes all high-rise buildings ground floor plus six-storey and above.

As the standards have been printed in the official gazette of Pakistan, all existing buildings constructed before their promulgation are now under legal obligation to “take measures and install all required equipments” within six months.

The city managers have started a “fire audit” of commercial plazas and government buildings in Islamabad. The authority is finding out if the owners and concerned departments have adopted measures under the Islamabad Fire Prevention & Life Safety Regulations 2010. “It is for the safety of the people in commercial buildings and government offices,” said Ramzan Sajid, CDA spokesman.

The implementation of fire safety regulations has been desperately felt. Early this month fire erupted in a commercial plaza in Blue Area and claimed four lives. The CDA`s preliminary report revealed that fire safety measures had not been taken by the owner or occupiers of the building.

The spokesman said the new fire safety standards and regulations for Islamabad were notified by the government in February this year. “Within six months fire safety measures are to be adopted.”

It has been observed that most of the commercial plazas in the city and government buildings have no satisfactory fire safety arrangements.

Under the regulations, the CDA`s disaster management directorate has been empowered to survey both public and private buildings and ensure precautionary measures in them. After the inspection of a building or premises, the authority can issue notice to the owner or the occupier. Islamabad had faced a number of major fire incidents in the past. In January 2002, a huge fire gutted the Shaheed-i-Millat Secretariat, turning property worth over Rs70 million to ashes.

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