Nalzaro: High-rise building safety

AS I pointed in my previous column, the fire that hit Metro Ayala Department Store has tested the capability of our firefighters in combating fire in high-rise buildings. No doubt, we have brave and courageous fire fighters from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and fire volunteers but they weren’t that effective given the fire fighting equipment available to them.

The fire lasted 67 hours before fire officials declared a “fire out.” What were the problems and handicaps our fire fighters experienced? One of them is surely lack of breathing apparatus and other gadgets considering the thick smoke that blanketed the floors of the six-story building. Maybe they also need night vision googles (in the Metro fire, there was zero visibility in the basement and parking areas because of the thick smoke. Although, there is a fire ladder that can reach as high as ten floors, only one is available. Were our firetrucks and their hoses in good condition?

Maybe its time for our fire department to assess its support equipment so it can be effective in combating fires in high-rise buildings and closed areas like hotels and condominiums. Those places are different from open areas. It’s a different battle ground, so to speak. Mind you, Metro Ayala has only six floors and our firemen had difficulty controlling the fire. What if it had 50 stories?

According to experts, high-rise buildings present challenges in egress time and distance, evacuation strategies, fire department accessibility, smoke movement and fire control. The multiple floors of a high-rise building requires big number of persons to travel long vertical distance in order to evacuate. Sometimes the safest thing you can do in a tall building fire is to stay put and wait for the fire fighters.

Meanwhile the the “former political has-been,” who just arrived from his medical check-up in the US, is considering a ban in the construction of high-rise buildings in the city unless the ability to fight major fires in skyscrapers improves. Battling skyscraper fires requires a high degree of organization and cooperation among participating units to be successfully contained and extinguished.

I am not an expert in engineering issues but I support the plan of the “former political has-been” to temporarily ban the construction of high-rise buildings unless we can find effective ways to combat fires these kinds of edifices.

Nowadays, a new building’s design already features safety measures in case of calamities like fires and earthquakes. But do these safety measures really work when the actual situation happens? Does the Metro Ayala building, which was constructed more than 20 years ago, have fire safety equipment like a sprinkler system? If it had, how come it did not work?

Was the volume of water coming out from the sprinklers enough to put off the blaze. Basin naay sprinklers pero morag ihi ra sa unggoy ang gikusdon gumikan kay wala makasaka ang tubig didto sa third floor? But the problem is there was no water available. Then we will blame the Metro Cebu Water District (MCWD). Paet!
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