‘Schools, teachers ill-equipped to handle basic drills’

Basic evacuation drill, which should last not more than two-and-a-half minutes, took more than double the time: Fire officials.

After a survey found that around 300 city schools were operating in gross violations of the fire safety rules and regulations, last year, evacuation drills conducted across some civic schools on Monday found them to be ill-equipped to handle fire incidents. A basic evacuation drill, which should last not more than two-and-a-half minutes, took more than double the time at many schools, said fire officials.

The national level school fire & evacuation drill, which was conducted after a the Deputy Fire Adviser to the Union Home Ministry has mandated the conduct of the drill as a nationwide exercise in each district. The national one-day drive saw all the 33 fire stations in the city conduct evacuations drill in one civic school in their jurisdiction.

With civic schools overburdened, it is difficult for the structure to bear the burden of students who will rush together in one instant during a fire incident, said a fire official.

The narrow passages, classroom size, number of floors, number of windows, the location of fire extinguishers were among the major challenges to conduct a safe evacuation drive, said an official.

"At present, most civic schools are overburdened with more as many as 80-100 children in many classes. And it is left on one teacher to ensure that the children leave the classroom in an orderly manner during evacuation from a building. Also, the small and narrow doors will make it difficult for children to exit classrooms in one go without any chaos," said another fire brigade official.

Another cause for concern was that in many schools, only a single staircase could be used as exit. "Most of the civic schools are old and not built in accordance with the new Fire Act rules. Many schools have only one staircase, making it difficult to be used by hundreds of children together," said an official.

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