FR Tower Fire: The Red Flags that shouldn’t have been ignored

The Faruque-Rupayan Tower aka FR tower is a noticeable high rise building in Banani. Being constructed a long time ago, this building has sold their space to several corporate offices and restaurants. And so, it was normal that a good number of people would be in this building for work or recreational purposes.

However, the fire at the same FR Tower on Thursday, around 12.45 PM opened our eyes to a few major issues it was hiding all this time. As of today, 24 people have died and almost 100 others were injured, all because the owners didn’t care to give attention to safety guidelines or the Bangladesh building codes.

Illegal extensions and the first red flag

The FR tower builders first submitted its plan to Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK) in 1995 and again in 2005. But what they left out is the fact that there was a four-floor extension. Although they got the approval to make this building 18-storey high, it was made to be of 22 floors with no following of safety regulations. And just like the recent fire, FR tower had also caught fire almost a decade ago. Even if this wasn’t enough to make the authorities conscious about its constructional defects, the floor extension apparently did come to the attention of RAJUK in 2007. But because proper action was not taken against anyone, this remained an issue for later. This was the first red flag, something that could have easily been stopped but wasn’t.

Lacking safety measures

In 2003, the Fire Prevention and Extinguishing act urged all high-rise buildings to send them a report within half a year of its announcement. The mighty Faruque-Rupayan Tower was one of them. But when the fire started last week, the iron fire exits were locked. This building had no sprinklers either. And the sad thing is, even if the fire exits were open, not all of the people in this building would be able to get out safely. Being only 0.6 metres and 1.2 metres in width, the only two fire exits there were in this 22-storey building wouldn’t have been enough to get everyone out safely.

“These incidents really don’t surprise you anymore. And the thing is, these don’t apply just for big buildings like this”

Said Marzan Kamal (Name has been changed) when asked about her opinion

She explained how the fire exits are always locked at most high-rise buildings nowadays.

And no one usually checks them until something bad happens.

After the incident, the fire department mentioned that the FR tower authorities were asked to join seminars on safety rules and recommended to work on safety measures surrounding the building. But they did not pay much attention to it. They also did not have their safety license, something that RAJUK needed to take care of right away.

It’s never too late to be safe

From the floor extension to not implementing safety guidelines to an overall poor construction of the building, there were countless red flags that the FR tower already had. But sadly, it isn’t until innocent people die a horrendous death that they actually start taking legal action. It is crucial for everyone keep their building’s fire safety measures in check. Just like this terrible incident, we shouldn’t wait till the damage has been done to be conscious.

A story of fire and crowd

Should you be called stupid for taking pictures in front of a burning building?

In a general sense, yes, you should be called stupid for taking pictures in front of a burning building.

Let me explain.

You’re not Clark Kent, Tintin, Anderson Cooper, or even Munni Saha- you don’t have the expectation of the world to report on it. However, your family do expect you to return home to them and you wont be able to if you stand under a fuming building, with debris (and people) falling from over your head and killing you or paralyzing you on the process.

What can you do if you find yourself around a blazing 22 storied edifice?

Firstly, if the fire seems recent, call 199. If you can’t remember it, you can still call 999. They’ll do the rest.

Read more: Fire Safety 101, What to do if you’re ever in a fire

Secondly, unless you have some sort of first aid training (which is frequently provided by the Red Crescent Society FYI), or the basic idea of how to help  during a fire fight, you clear out of the area. Like right at the moment.

There have been multiple arguments going around about how it’s the people who’s been of the most help during the calamities Dhaka has been facing since the beginning of civilization, Rana Plaza disaster being the most prominent example. What these arguments fail to realize is the differences of the situations.

The Rana Plaza disaster was of such a huge caliber, that professional help was outnumbered by the casualties. So the people helped. They helped with instruments, they lent hands for digging- carrying, they helped by providing with food,water and medicine, they donated blood, they did everything in their power to help the affected- dead or alive.

Of what use were those who held their cameras high and blocked 3/4th of the entire road to a building engulfed in fire?

The road was much more needed for the fire-fighters, the first-aiders and the medical teams to function effectively.

Before you start bringing up the people who actually helped, those who helped with carrying the waterline, or that kid who stayed on top of the pipe to stop it from leaking the entire time, or those who tried to keep the 1/4th of the road clear of the “curious people” so the ambulances or the fire trucks could come through, try to think of the number of them (around 200) against of those who just stood there and did nothing (nearly a thousand).

Before you start defending those who stood there and prayed, they could’ve prayed at home. They could’ve prayed at the mosque.

They could’ve not make it harder for the people who actually had family and friends stuck in the building. They could’ve not make the police come down to clear the entire Kamal Ataturk Road and they could’ve not make the ambulances and the fire trucks late.

They could’ve reduced the number of deaths and injured, if they weren’t some, in lack of better words, attention-hungry jerks.

Before you start defending those who stood there to watch and record people burning, breaking down, dying, jumping off the building to save themselves from the fire- remember what happened less than a month ago in Chawkbazar. Remember how the crowd, in collaboration with the unplanned roads and streets, hindered the help from getting there on time.

Remember how curiosity killed someone’s family, someone’s friends, someone’s loved one. Literally.