Fire doors are important for many reasons, but it isn’t just how they function as an item that make them such an important part of fire safety, it is also how humans use them. If a fire door or emergency exit is blocked for example, even the best fire door will be powerless to resist fire and smoke, and the people inside a building will face a greater struggle to survive and escape to safety as a result. In Bangladesh recently this was highlighted with serious consequences, as at least 25 people died and another 70 people injured in a fire in the capital Dhaka, due to emergency exits being locked in a tower block.
This is the reason officials believe the fire caused so much damage, death and injury in March, with six of the victims believed to have fallen to their deaths, deciding to jump from the burning tower block instead of burning alive inside. An investigation is under way to discover the reasons behind why the fire started, although Dhaka fire department did indicate there was a shortage of fire safety equipment inside the building that could have added to the problems once the fire started.
The fire started in the tower block and many of the people trapped were on the upper floors of the building, above where the fire originated. It is believed that there was insufficient fire safety systems in place, with only a two-feet wide iron staircase acting as an emergency fire escape. This was discovered to be locked on different floors, meaning that people had no way to escape the fire on these upper floors.
22 units of fire fighters tackled the blaze, with assistance from the air force, navy, and army (military helicopters were used to rescue some people from the rooftop of the tower building, as well as to drop water on the fire). It took over four hours to get the fire under control.
The fire and subsequent death toll is a long-term worry for the authorities in Dhaka, as the Bangladeshi capital has a large number of high-rise residential and commercial buildings, as well as a dense population to manage. To see locked emergency exits or routes blocked by unwanted junk and furniture is a common sight in many residential tower blocks, so there will have been little surprise at the fire causing so much damage.
It goes to show the importance of strong and sturdy fire doors, proper installation of fire safety equipment, and the need for regular testing and a knowledge of what to do during an emergency, such as a fire. In any large residential or commercial building it is important that all exits are signposted clearly, that there is a regular occurrence of fire safety drills and that all exits are kept clear at all times. This ensures that in the event of a fire every single person knows exactly what to do and where to go, calmly and quickly.