Fire represents one of the most feared and severely damaging threats to any real estate structure. This is particularly true in Pakistan as there is limited awareness about various fire hazards and their life-threatening and economic implications. As per the recent data revealed by Rescue 1122 — an emergency helpline operational across Pakistan — there have been at least 34,725 cases of fire-related emergencies from 2004 to December 7, 2019. The same source quoted that there was a 4.4% increase in fire cases in 2019 alone, as compared to the figures recorded over the preceding year.
Due to the recent spike in incidents of buildings catching fire because of a lack of vigilance and poor maintenance, Emerging Markets Property Group (EMPG) and its subsidiaries OLX and Zameen.com organized a fire safety drill on March 16 at the OLX Mall Warehouse.
An exercise to ensure maximum safety in time of crises
The fire drill began with a 15-minute presentation that explained the hazards posed by fire, its various classifications, the stages in which it spreads, and how to overcome it and control the damage. Understanding these concepts is vital, as there have been instances where people misjudged the type of fire and the results were disastrous. The trainers of the workshop also explained various extinguishing and evacuation procedures in order to better prepare the attendees on how to handle a fire-related crisis.
The training drill was attended by several employees of Zameen.com, OLX and EMPG. Additionally, the staff of nearby institutions also made an appearance and benefitted from the educational session. These attendees belonged to establishments like Hamdard Lab, Mehran Foods, and Nayyer Carpets.
The team which organised this exercise stated that “the purpose of the drill was to establish an organizational structure and procedure in response to major emergencies like fire”.
The one-hour drill also included a practical demonstration on how to extinguish fires and evacuate buildings during such emergencies.
The most common ‘culprits’ in fire-related incidents across Pakistan
Research studies have shown that the increase in these tragic incidents is caused by a set of common causes that have seemed to create a recurring pattern leading to disastrous consequences. These causes include electric short-circuiting, gas leakages, cylinder blasts, candles, cigarettes, welding, and other mechanical failures.
Fire safety is considered an expensive endeavor and a waste of money in developing countries like Pakistan. Other issues include the following:
- The stakeholders have limited awareness
- There is an absence of fire design guidelines and procedures
- The ‘emergency exits’ are rarely made part of the layout plan
- Even though the government has laws regarding the matter, it fails to strictly enforce them
EMPG uplifting society by fulfilling its corporate social responsibility (CSR)
EMPG is operational in several countries and is the parent company of Zameen.com. Recently, the company achieved unicorn status by announcing its merger with the OLX Group. Both OLX and Zameen.com are household names in Pakistan and have attained this status by earning the trust and respect of their customers. Now, they are determined to do anything in their power to bring awareness to various issues and provide solutions that help improve our society.
EMPG feels strongly about the threat posed by fire for real estate developments, especially given the market niche. EMPG Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Imran Ali Khan stated that “In all offices of Zameen.com, OLX and EMPG, we have ensured the availability of fire extinguishing equipment, fire alarms and emergency exits. However, since these incidents can occur anywhere, it is important to offer training exercises to employees so they keep their wits about them, and help themselves and their fellows employees’.
Regarding the fire safety drill, Director Administration and Procurement Mariam Saleem said that the purpose of the exercise was not only to ensure the general welfare of the employees of Zameen.com, OLX and EMPG, but to also empower them to overcome any emergency situations.
On a parting note….
After having concluded the fire safety workshop, Zameen.com and OLX further advised other real estate developers to never compromise on the quality of electric and gas line fixtures — especially for industrial and commercial constructions. Additionally, developers were also asked to opt for central generators for multi-storey commercial buildings, and to make it an ethical practice to spend 3 to 4% of the total building cost on measures to prevent the loss of finances and lives. Hopefully, with these small changes, we can bring the count of such incidents to a minimum.