Daily Current Affairs – 4th May, 2016

Daily Current Affairs – 4th May, 2016

Fire at the National Museum of Natural History

  • Established in 1972, the National Museum of Natural History in New Delhi is one of two museums focusing on nature in India
  • Functions under the Ministry of Environment and Forests

The Fire

  • The fire that broke out in the early hours of April 26, spread to five of the six floors that the museum occupies, and large parts of its collections were destroyed
  • Took three and a half hours to bring the fire under control and another three hours of cooling down operations— used 6 cars with hydraulic platforms to douse the fire in the top floors and 200 fire fighters were rushed in from different parts of the capital

Rapid Spread of Fire: The wooden partitions to separate different wings of the museum on each of the four floors as well as the specimens, the stuffed animals and the chemicals that were all highly combustible

Fire safety measures— Present but ineffective and not functional in the FICCI building

  • The building did not have a fire clearance certificate
  • NOC (no objection certificate) from the fire department was approved only for the auditorium
  • The pumps were not working when the fire personnel needed water

 

Museums in India: Aesthetics first, disaster management last

Most of the museums in the country have been designed with aesthetics uppermost on the minds of their architects and without any disaster risk management plan

Issues—

  • Fire safety and disaster management plans are drafted in retrospect, after museums or public spaces have already been designed and constructed – they are not factored in at the design stage thereby making the implementation difficult
  • Circulation, ventilation, light and safety are the usual casualties, as planned features — exit points, staircases, landings, windows, open-to-sky areas — are encroached upon or closed off for space, sometimes “security”, reasons
  • “Temporary” construction— often with cheap and harmful materials like asbestos, adding further to the risk
  • Maintenance is never adequate and regular fire and safety drills are rare
  • Sanitation facilities—Toilets are filthy, galleries damp and dusty

Therefore, need for the Government to give more weightage to careful planning and ensure the durability of display cases in the event of a blast or fire

  • Reorientation of the evacuation routes for a safer and timely evacuation (The museum was believed to be more makeshift in nature with poor visitor facilitation plan for movement from one gallery to another)
  • There should be different fire-fighting systems in different galleries because the libraries and the exhibits can be destroyed as much by water as by fire

Other disasters—

  • Fire, water leakages and flooding that can wreak enormous and immediate damage, to museum collections and the public.
  • Inappropriate sewage and drainage systems, unhygienic and offensive garbage disposal arrangements, including heaps of junk and malba (left to lie around for months and years), mosquito-infested environments—pose health and safety hazards in government museums.
  • Wrong storage, handling and display, the dust, the humidity, the insects, the incomplete accessioning of invaluable objects, theft—plague our public museums and that slowly, often not so slowly, destroy the treasures held in the collections

Architecture of the Museum to be blamed—

  • Was housed in a building not designed for it with various additions and changes made over time in completely arbitrary ways—without any reference to original design and function
  • More makeshift in nature with poor visitor facilitation plan for movement from one gallery to another

 

Way Ahead

Fire safety audit need to be made compulsory for all the museums or for that matter all the important public buildings

Rule bending—a serious offence: The National Building Code, prepared under the guidance of the Bureau of Indian Standards and updated periodically, which lays down the ground rules for correct building practice and maintenance, including detailed guidelines for fire safety needs to be seriously followed and mandatorily implemented.

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